© St. Petersburg Times, published November 7, 2002
INVERNESS -- The time was 8:37 p.m. and the applause was raucous.
Just an hour and a half after the polls closed Tuesday night, Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill was delivering final vote tallies.
A minor phone line glitch held up results from the last precinct, but when the dust settled on Election 2002, Gill declared the event a success.
A total of 62.4 percent of the county's 84,864 voters cast ballots, slightly below the 66 percent Gill had predicted. Still, she said, the turnout was better than it was during the last gubernatorial election, when 58.3 percent of the eligible voters turned out.
She said this election had the highest percentage of early voters ever with 12,181 ballots cast by mail or in the elections office before Election Day. Absentees accounted for 23.7 percent of all votes cast.
Today's Citrus Times includes several stories about the election and its aftermath. Here's a look at some other races:
Gary Bartell picked up his fourth term, sailing past challenger Phillip Mulrain with 64.7 percent of the vote.
Bartell, a Homosassa Republican, captured an overwhelming 81 percent in West Homosassa Springs, buoyed by his efforts to secure state sewer grants for the area and his opposition to Halls River Retreat, a controversial condominium project on which Mulrain was neutral.
Bartell also pulled 76 percent and 72 percent of the vote in Sugarmill Woods' precincts, and posted 70 percent-plus returns in Pine Ridge.
Mulrain, a semiretired Lecanto Democrat making his second run for County Commission, carried no precincts. But he trailed Bartell by only eight votes in Chassahowitzka, where some property owners have criticized Bartell for not addressing water quality problems sooner.
Bartell said water quality has always been a top issue. With most of the funding in place for sewer projects in Homosassa and Chassahowitzka, he said he plans to focus now on cleaning up the Tsala Apopka lake chain by replacing septic tanks with central sewer lines.
"Every incumbent runs on their record," Bartell said. "I think my record shows I consistently listen to my citizens and my constituents."
Mayor Ron Kitchen's 79-vote victory over Ray Wallace denied them the slam dunk, but power still seemed to shift back to the old line political faction Tuesday night.
Incumbent City Council member Bonnie Taylor lost to Roger Proffer, while Robert Holmes took a three-way contest for the council seat vacated by Russ Kreager.
Proffer, Holmes and Wallace were backed financially by businessman Ed Tolle, a longtime player in city politics. The winners said they were independent before the race and would remain that way.
But others had a different view. "They won; there's no point denying the obvious," said Chris Lloyd, who backed Kitchen and Taylor. "This is a game in which winning is the only game." Before Tuesday, the council could be arguably defined as evenly split, with Taylor as the swing vote.
It remains to be seen how the new officials will align themselves, if at all. Holmes at least has expressed dissatisfaction with John Kendall and Kitty Ebert, who completed the first year of three-year terms.
"It may be refreshing if it turns out the political factions are not there," council member Susan Kirk said. Asked if that was possible, she replied, "We'll see."
Incumbent Brenda Buzby, who owns and operates her own small pest control business and was first elected to the board in 1990, cruised to victory in Seat 1.
She took 55 percent of the vote while Thomas J. Corkery took 21 percent and Michael B. Harris took 24 percent.
The Seat 2 race featured no incumbent, since Pat Fitzpatrick did not seek another term. The winner was Gerald Kelley, a retired transportation company employee, who took 32 percent of the vote.
That was good enough for a plurality over Greg Biance (26 percent), Henry Hemrick (21 percent), Stephen Pochis (12 percent) and Gary Meiman (9 percent.)
Stephanie McLeod didn't seek re-election, leaving Seat 3 up for grabs. Keith Anderson, a former worker for the Collier County Mosquito Control District who later served on that district's board, took 32 percent of the vote.
He defeated Jim Crosley (25 percent), Albert Jordan (22 percent) and Winston Perry (21 percent).
Citrus voters were firmly behind the overall winners in the three state-level elections on the ballot.
In Citrus, 61.4 percent of voters supported incumbent Jeb Bush for governor while 37.5 percent went for Bill McBride .
In the race for attorney general, Citrus voters voted 56 percent for Charlie Crist and 43.9 percent for Buddy Dyer.
In the race for commissioner of agriculture, Citrus voters also mirrored state results with 63.2 percent voting to re-elect Charles H. Bronson and 36.7 percent backing David Nelson.
On the constitutional amendments, Citrus voters were generally in step with the state -- with one notable exception.
That exception was Amendment 9, which concerns school class sizes. While it passed statewide, 61 percent of Citrus voters opposed the measure.
-- Times staff writers Bridget Hall Grumet, Alex Leary and Jim Ross contributed to this report.