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The 77-year-old City Council member wins a contest that reveals the importance of race in Brooksville elections.
By DAN DeWITT
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 7, 2002
BROOKSVILLE -- When the results of the Brooksville City Council election began coming in Tuesday evening, Ernie Wever was at a dinner meeting with city staffers and the financial advisers who arranged the recent refinancing of some of the city's old bonds.
He didn't see that his challenger, Frankie Burnett, took an early lead. He didn't witness his dramatic gains when the last two precincts were counted.
He was too concerned about the future of the city, he said, to hang around and wait for election results.
"It was dinner with work involved," said Wever, 77, who has served on the council since 1994.
Wever eventually won a contest that highlighted the importance of race in Brooksville elections and maintained a council that favors rapidly expanding the city's services and boundaries.
"We'll have the same program that we've had," Wever said Wednesday. "We'll continue to improve the city, make it grow."
Burnett, 47, is the president of the Hernando County Chapter of the NAACP. He was the first African-American candidate since Luther Cason was elected to the council in 1990.
In Precinct 11, which includes predominantly black South Brooksville, Burnett won 74 percent of the votes. The precinct was among the first counted, and with three of five precincts counted, Burnett had what looked liked a strong lead.
But Wever claimed more than 60 percent of two predominantly white precincts. With these included, he won by more than 7 percentage points.
Burnett preferred to look at the results differently. He received more than 46 percent of the vote in a city where black voters make up 13.8 percent of the electorate. That shows that many white residents voted for him, and, overall, he said, it was a good showing against a well-established council member like Wever.
"We see ourselves as winners running against someone of Mr. Wever's status," Burnett said.
He also said that in a year when negative campaigning dominated many political races, this one was free of rancor.
"There was no mudslinging," Burnett said. "That was never in our plans. I'm proud we ran a nice, clean race."