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DeSantis, Greenwell surge to wins in red wave

By Staff | Nov 9, 2022

Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio were re-elected on Tuesday while Congressman Byron Donalds easily won re-election to represent the 19th Congressional District that covers most of Lee and Collier counties as part of red wave that swept over the area and the state.

Lee County Commissioner Mike Greenwell (R-Alva) handily won a special election for District 5 against Lehigh Acres Democrat Matthew Wood while Lee County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Cecil Pendergrass (R-District 2) and Commissioner Brian Hamman (R-District 4) were re-elected after facing only write-ins.

The election results were indicative of the overwhelming advantage Republicans hold in Lee County with nearly 100,000 more registered voters than Democrats. According to statistics from the Lee County Board of Election Supervisors, there are 226,672 registered Republicans in the county compared to 128,650 Democrats. There are 162,709 voters affiliated with other parties or no party.

Greenwell secured 68.59% of the still-to-be-certified vote Tuesday. The former Boston Red Sox All-Star outfielder and the owner of several businesses in Lee County, was appointed by DeSantis to fill the seat of the late Commissioner Frank Mann in July. Greenwell won a Republican primary weeks later for the special election.

“It’s a great feeling,” Greenwell said Tuesday night. “It’s a great honor to be appointed by who I think is the greatest governor in the country. It’s an even greater honor to be voted in by your community,” he said.

Greenwell said he was focused on helping the county recover from Hurricane Ian, where more than 10 million cubic yards of debris was still waiting to be picked up. More than 2 million cubic yards had already been picked up, Greenwell said. Greenwell said more than 21,000 homes in the county had been flooded.

“There is so much to be done,” Greenwell said.

Greenwell said he had not done any campaigning since Hurricane Ian, instead choosing to focus on the recovery effort, going out to hard-hit areas such as Sanibel and Matlacha and working with county officials to find solutions to issues such as the 50% rule with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and how residents may be affected. The county had tried to add on to 15% of the market value of properties to help homeowners build back without having to tear down their properties if 50% or more of the property was damaged but the county received a letter from the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FEMA) on Tuesday that it may not be able to.

“We are doing everything we can. We are discussing with FEMA and the state if we can improve the 50% rule and we are not sure if we can. If we can, we will,” Greenwell said.

Donalds, who was in a rematch against Fort Myers Democrat Cindy Banyai, carried 63% of the electorate in Lee County and 70% of voters in Collier County based on unofficial tallies with more than 130,000 ballots counted.

Donalds, of Naples, faced a rematch with Fort Myers Democrat Cindy Banyai. The two clashed over abortion, immigration and other issues with the two taking starkly different positions on most issues. Banyai had attacked Donalds for voting not to certify the 2020 presidential election in two states and for a vote against a spending bill after Hurricane Ian that would have aided the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Donalds ran on a platform criticizing the immigration policy of President Joe Biden and calling for a change in Federal Reserve policy. Donalds said he is seeking a position on the financial services committee.

Vicki Collins, spokesperson for the office of the Lee County Supervisor of Elections, said there were “lines all day” to vote. There were 13 voting locations throughout the county, down from the normal amount of 97. The limited number of polling locations was due to damage from Hurricane Ian to facilities.

Collins said there were some “signature discrepancies” with some mail-in ballots though an exact number was not immediately available. Those with signature discrepancies in which the signature provided with the mail-in ballot did not match a signature on file or license, “have until 5 p.m. Thursday to cure their ballots,” Collins said. Collins said there were no issues with signatures at polling locations. Under a voting law passed by the Florida legislature, signatures must match though election officials can utilize multiple records to match signatures.

State Rep. Adam Botana (R-80) won re-election in a landslide over Mitchel Schlayer. Botana, of Bonita Springs, received 67% of the unofficial vote. The district covers Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Bonita Springs.

Lee County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Martin faced only a write-in in the District 33 State Senate seat held by Ray Rodrigues. Rodrigues was appointed by DeSantis as chancellor of the State University System of Florida. Martin received 95% of the unofficial vote.

Results are not final until certification on Nov. 18.