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Lee County Commission incumbents take primary

By Staff | Aug 30, 2016

Frank Mann

The atmosphere at Commissioner Larry Kiker’s watch party was tense as the first numbers of the evening rolled in.

A gasp of dismay swept through the room at the Cypress Lakes Country Club as the TV broadcast that the Lee County Commissioner was tied with District 3 challenger Dick Anderson.

The minutes ticked by, but then Kiker’s campaign manager Terry Miller let out a gasp and took a knee in a moment of relief.

Kiker, the Republican incumbent, tip-toed into the victory with 50.87 percent of the votes. He received 32,892 votes to Anderson’s 31,880 after all 127 precincts were counted.

The uncertainty of the race in the final hour was uncomfortable, he said.

Larry Kiker

“It felt challenging, but this is what elections are about people get to make a choice. I’m glad that I got another four years,” he said.

After a short speech to the room filled with his supporters, he got on the dance floor with his wife, Paula.

“Paula wants to celebrate,” he said.

Denny Weimer, Kiker’s treasurer, watched proudly as the man he’d counted money with for 14 years narrowly snagged another victory.

As a resident of Fort Myers Beach, Weimer has been with Kiker since he served on the Fort Myers Beach Town Council as mayor.

“He did a good job coming into the town,” Weimer said. “I think he came into the county at a rough time and managed to turn it around.”

During his campaign Kiker raised $209,810 in donations and $4,795 in in-kind contributions.

Anderson tallied $34,022 and $900.

Kiker will face write-in candidate Eli Zoana in the November election.

For District 5 incumbent Frank Mann, the primary wasn’t nearly as exciting as his colleague’s.

Mann gathered with an intimate group of family and friends at Barbara Mann Performance Hall’s Presidential Lounge, named after his mother, on Florida Southwestern College’s campus.

“I’ve been feeling confident,” Mann said of the campaign trail this time around. “I’ve been re-elected twice with a comfortable margin.”

Mann defeated Ken Dobson, a former Fort Myers Fire Department chief, with 54 percent of votes. Mann swept in 36,304 votes and Dobson received 30,862 as the precincts were counted.

Mann has served on the Lee County Commission for 12 years and served in other political offices prior.

He and his wife, Mary Lee, manage the campaign together.

“We’ve got it down to a science,” he said.

She manages the finances and edits his letters and releases.

“We’ve been married 55 years, and we’ve been running campaigns for over half of that,” she said with a chuckle.

Mann attributes much of his success to the time he and his wife devoted toward TV campaigns. When he first began his political career, districts were smaller and Lee County’s population was far lower than present-day. In the old days, door-to-door could get you votes, he said, but in modern races, he puts his money into the widest-reaching vehicle.

“It pleases me greatly to have had the strength of support I’ve had and I generated by fighting for quality of life and environmental consciousness,” he said.

Mann raised $93,250 in donations and $3,197 in in-kind contributions, a majority of which he said he devoted to his TV campaigns about water quality in the Calooshatchee River and quality of life in Lee County. Dobson raised $51,350 and $4,164.

Mann will face Democrat Diane Zigrossi and write-in Sonny Haas in the November election.

Election results are unofficial until certified.