Council winners: Gunter, Steinke, Cummings and Long
Mayor John Gunter and District 6 Councilmember Keith Long were re-elected Tuesday night with political newcomers Bill Steinke and Patty Cumming, who won a tight come-from-behind race, garnering the Cape Coral City Council seats up for grabs.
At around 9:30 p.m. on Election night, Cummings looked to lose, trailing her District 4 opponent, incumbent Jennifer Nelson by around 10 points.
However, Nov. 8, 2022 would not be like every other election.
Because of Hurricane Ian, the same-day ballots would take much longer to count because there were only 12 polling sites countywide for people to vote instead of the usual 97 precincts.
Throughout the night, Nelson’s lead dwindled until finally, late Tuesday, Cummings overtook Nelson to win the election by less than 2 percent, 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent.
It was the culmination of a campaign that saw Cummings barely get through the primary, endure Hurricane Ian that saw her home damaged and her fiancee become seriously ill to become the fourth straight challenger to defeat an incumbent in District 4.
“I started praying and said it was in God’s hands. She got a lot of votes through mail-in ballots. It at the polls where we won,” Cummings said. “Talking to the residents of Cape Coral is what kept me going. They were saying they needed me and it helped me keep going.”
Nelson said the people spoke, the vote wasn’t in her favor, and she wished Cummings success.
“I have no regrets. I ran a clean campaign. I’m proud of the work I’ve done over the last five years. I will continue to work hard for my community in other ways,” Nelson said. “I’m grateful for all the support I received. It’s really heartwarming.”
Bill Steinke, from District 1, cruised through the primary before winning the general election by nearly 15 percent over Carol Rae Culliton, 57.24 to 42.76 percent.
Steinke said he is looking forward to getting on the dais and working on the city’s infrastructure so it can keep up with the continuing growth.
“They say the average overnight success takes about seven years. The ease on which I won was not easy. People said nobody knew who I was before the primary, and that is not true,” Steinke said. “I’ve been in the area a long time and have been involved in a lot of ways. I just never stuck out my chest and never needed to be in the limelight.”
In the mayor’s race, incumbent Gunter, who served as the District 1 council member before being appointed mayor in January 2021 following the death of Joe Coviello, had little trouble defeating challenger Thomas Shadrach. Gunter took 61.08 percent of the vote to Shadrach’s 38.92, despite spending very little time campaigning as the city continues to rebuild following Ian.
Long also saw his lead diminish when the same-day ballots were counted, but staved off challenger Wayne Hecht, 52.46 to 47.54 percent.
Long, who was appointed to the District 6 seat after the health-related retirement of Rick Williams, said his year on the council proved positive all the hard work he has done.
“It’s still a win. That’s the thing about democracy, you vote and you get the results. I’m encouraged by the victory and its positive affirmation for the work I’ve done,” Long said. “Those people who supported me I look forward to continuing the support through my actions.”
Gunter, who has made recovery post-Ian his primary focus, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Results are not final until certification on Nov. 18.
At press time, the date and time for the swearing in of the new council had not yet been announced.