In a stunning 26.26 percent turnout of voters in the Primary Election, Navarre resident and retired Air Force Colonel Dave Piech was elected to the seat of District 4 County Commissioner, upsetting the incumbent Rob Williamson by a 25.36 percent margin. Of the 34,623 ballots cast, 20,236 voted for Piech.
Piech’s campaign lagged behind in fundraising with $55,321 to Williamson’s $96,059, but in the end, the amount of money raised didn’t matter. Williamson launched a negative campaign from the beginning, referring to Piech as “Chicago Dave” who would bring Chicago politics to Santa Rosa County. But voters soon learned Piech left Chicago in 1985 when he went to college. The negative attacks continued to the detriment of Williamson’s campaign.
“I think the people want someone who will serve every citizen of Santa Rosa County whether they voted for him or not. It was a hard decision to not go negative. It would have been a poor use of funds,” Lynn Piech said. “That is not who Dave and I are. At the end of this we have to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror. My name means more to me than winning. We stuck to integrity.”
“I believe the difference for us was we opened the process to the people. We were transparent, and they were part of this process with us,” Piech said.
When the early voting results were posted, Piech was in the lead, and he remained there until the final results were posted. “I was overwhelmed and grateful that people took the time to get out and vote,” Piech added.
Dave and Lynn Piech spent their day waving to voters and visiting the precincts around the county. Lynn said she was excited when she saw the early results because she thought about the volunteers that had contributed so much to their campaign.
Lynn said, “I am beyond proud of Dave. He is that guy and I’ve just been waiting for everyone else to figure it out. And they did.”
Piech supporter Stacy Annese assured voters, “He will not disappoint. I promise you. As a veteran, I know what a Colonel has to do to get that far. He is not a professional politician, he is a great guy wanting what is the best for Santa Rosa County.”
Milton City Councilman Jeff Snow supported Piech and attended the watch party. “Over the last few years I’ve heard a lot of people talking about our county’s separation, but more people want to bring the county together. I think the vote proved that tonight. I am as excited for Santa Rosa County as I am for Milton. Honesty and integrity always wins.”
Williamson conceded the race to Piech in a text message earlier in the evening. The text message read, “Tried to call earlier but got vm (voicemail).Congratulations to you and your team on tonight’s victory. We wish you the best of luck in your new role. If I may be of service to you, please don’t hesitate to call. Rob Williamson”
However, Williamson’s election Facebook page says Williamson is done with politics altogether. “Ultimately, we were unable to overcome the consistent and coordinated negative attacks. This will be the end of our political career. I will not put our family through this again.
This campaign has worn our family down and soured us to the entire political process.”
At the end of his Facebook message, Williamson lobbied for healing. “Now, let us turn our efforts to healing this community and support Dave in his new role.”
District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole handily won the primary against Tammie Jo Brown and Wallis Mahute. But Cole will face Kris Long in the general election.
Heading into November, Cole said, “We are going to keep doing what we are doing. We are telling the people the things we want to do, how we work as a team, and we want to bring the new team player in.”
As for the board of commissioners, Cole said, “We now have a good solidified board and I think Dave (Piech) will fit right in. I see some really great things ahead.”
In other local race results, Linda Sanborn, Carol Boston and Wei Ueberschaer won their district school board seats. Rick Scott overwhelmingly took the vote for U.S. Senator. Matt Gaetz won in Santa Rosa County with 59.88 percent of the vote.
Ron DeSantis carried 56.79 percent of the vote for Governor, and Alex Andrade garnered 65.63 of Santa Rosa votes for State Representative District 2. In the race for Commissioner of Agriculture, Matt Caldwell eased by Baxter Troutman with 37.15 percent of the vote. Frank White also carried the larger vote in the Attorney General race.
We will have a complete overview of the election and how the districts voted in next week’s issue.
As seen in the Aug. 30 issue of Navarre Press.
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