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Incumbent who lost to Cummings mulling appointment bid for now vacant seat

By Valarie Harring - | Nov 18, 2023

Jennifer Nelson

The incumbent who lost her Cape Coral City Council seat in a tight runoff in which the winner is now suspended from office is weighing a bid for the vacant seat.

Former Councilmember Jennifer Nelson’s name came up as a possible interim appointee to fill the seat left open after the victor in the District 4 runoff in 2022, Patty Cummings, was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis this week as she awaits adjudication on three felonies related to the election.

Cummings, who is accused of falsifying her address to run, has been charged with fraudulent application for driver license and two counts of false swearing in connection with or arising out of voting or elections, allegations she denies and says she will fight.

Cape Coral Council members are elected by voters citywide but must live in the district they are to represent when they qualify to run.

Nelson responded via text when reached for comment Saturday.

“This is incredibly unfortunate for the residents of District 4 and our entire city. I’m disappointed that someone who should have the community’s best interests in mind, began their relations with the citizens of Cape Coral in a deceitful and unlawful manner. But I am happy the fraud perpetrated on our voters has been exposed and our governor acted swiftly. I am confident in our State Attorney’s Office that justice is being served.

“Will I go back?

“I’m not sure yet if I will apply for the appointment. I love this city and I loved serving the residents of District 4. I ran a clean and honest campaign that I’m extremely proud of. If I am called to serve my city, I would consider (it) as I know I could hit the ground running and serve until the next election cycle.”

The city’s charter requires City Council to fill the vacant seat within 30 days. The appointee will serve until Cummings is either reinstated by the governor or until the 2024 municipal election.

Councilmember Robert Welsh suggested at a special Council meeting held Friday that Nelson be appointed as the District 4 race had been tight — Cummings received 50.89 percent of the vote to Nelson’s 49.11 percent, 28,380 votes to 27,382. He also said as Nelson had served a term she could “hit the ground running,” adding that since voters had cast ballots for her, it could help restore some trust in Council.

Others on the elected board disagreed and opted the follow the procedure Council has followed in past vacancies: It will accept applications from qualified candidates and appoint one following public interviews.

The Cape Coral City Clerk is currently accepting District 4 applications to fill the Council vacancy. The application deadline is Dec. 1 at 5 p.m.

Applicants must:

• Reside in District 4

• Be a registered elector of the City

• Be a permanent resident of Cape Coral

• Be a continuous full-time resident of the City for the entire calendar year immediately preceding qualification for office

• Submit a statement of financial interest

An original signed application and a copy of voter’s registration card are required to complete the application process. Documents will be accepted by the City Clerk in person at City Hall, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral.

The application for may be found at “http://capecoral.gov” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>capecoral.gov. Click on “City Clerk” under Departments in the top nav and see the sidebar tab named “City Appointment – District 4″ with all the info.

Questions and requests for an application should be directed to the City Clerk at 239-574-0417.