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Analysis/Apopka Elections 2024

Anderson and Nesta won city commission races because of campaign fundamentals


I've heard many theories on social media about why the 2024 Apopka City Commission elections turned out the way they did. From low voter turnout to conspiracy theories to dirty politics... wild explanations abound when a surprise candidate wins at the ballot box.

However, there may be simple reasons for the results that played out.

Municipal election campaigns require a well-planned strategy. Fundamentals should be followed. Running for office can be daunting and requires a lot of resources, from creating a strong message and building a robust campaign team to canvassing and fundraising. Several key components can make or break a candidate's chances of success.

Ignore the fundamentals at your own peril.

It would be a simplistic explanation to blame the results of last Wednesday's elections on a record-low voter turnout. And although they ran entirely different campaigns, Commissioner Nick Nesta and Commissioner-Elect Nadia Anderson followed fundamental paths to victory.

No one seemed surprised that Nesta won his second straight election in the last two years. In 2022 and 2024, he exceeded 60% of the vote and defeated Planning Commission member Eric Mock for the second straight cycle.

Here is what I think happened.

In an election with an incumbent, it's a lot like a championship boxing match. The challenger needs to knock out the champ, not just win on points. That means a challenger needs to hit the bank shot of proving their opponent is unqualified to hold the office and that they are qualified to replace them.

Mock seemed to establish his qualifications to sit on the Apopka City Council during the forums and debates. But his efforts to prove Nesta was unqualified fell short.

Mock presented a case against Nesta that included three core issues:

  • The negative discourse on Council
  • The new portfolio policy, which Nesta voted for
  • The forensic audit Nesta called for

However, judging by the results, Mock was unable to land those punches. Nesta's performances in the forums, debates, and on the Council seemed to overcome whatever challenge Mock could muster and convey his message as an effective commissioner.

Although he answered the question several times, I am still flabbergasted that Mock didn't run for an open seat (#3) against two first-time candidates rather than face an incumbent. I think he would have taken the Oath of Office in April if he had.

Mock was more than gracious in defeat.

"I’d like to congratulate Nick Nesta on his victory for Apopka City Council, Seat 4," he said. "As I stated before, Apopka voters will decide who they want on the council for the next 4 years. The voters have spoken. I want to thank all my supporters. You are all wonderful, giving your time, campaign donations, and volunteering. I am a fortunate man. I have made lifelong friends. I’d like to last of all thank my wife, Rhonda. Your support and encouragement are what mean the most to me in my life. On to tomorrow, picking up signs!!"

For the record, Nesta is the first City Council member in the post-John Land era to receive more than 60% of the vote in two straight elections. 

And while Nesta's victory was predicted, Anderson's was a surprise.

Anderson took a beating on social media and remained relatively silent. But behind the noise on Facebook, Anderson amassed an advantage in a fundamental aspect of politics - money.

Fundraising is crucial in local campaigns. It allows a candidate to tell their story and broaden their reach with voters. However, for first-time candidates, it can be an uphill battle. It's not easy to ask supporters for money, but fundraising in local elections can be the deciding factor between success and failure.

Both Anderson and Darryl Richardson were relatively unknown in Apopka politics. Anderson, a local business owner, runs Prestige Properties in Apopka, while Richardson, an investor, is a part owner in Three Odd Guys Brewery.

On the downside, their lack of name recognition in the community added to the challenges they faced in their campaigns. On the upside, they were in the same boat. However, Anderson brought a lot more money onto the boat than Richardson.

A study published by the Center for Responsive Politics (opensecrets.org) found that in the U.S. House and Senate races from 2000 to 2022, the candidate who spent the most money won approximately 90% of the time. Certainly, congressional elections and the race for Seat #3 in Apopka are very different, but the same standard applies. A significant fundraising advantage is hard to overcome.

Anderson raised or invested $15,925 in her campaign and spent $12,506.26. Richardson raised or invested $6,770 in his campaign and spent $6,225.68. In a contest of unknown first-time candidates, you cannot get outspent 2:1 and expect to win.

It would be easy to blame a record-breaking low voter turnout in Apopka for Richardson's loss, particularly in a race decided by less than 500 votes, but the consistency of Anderson's advantage suggests otherwise.

Anderson defeated Richardson in 13 of the 16 precincts in Apopka, with one precinct reporting a 0-0 result. She also received the most votes from mail-in ballots, early votes, and votes on Election Day.

With a widespread advantage in almost every precinct, in the mail, early voting, and Election Day, it's hard to argue that more votes would have made a difference. There are times when a low voter turnout can hurt a candidate, but in a contest between two first-timers without significant name recognition, the likelihood is Anderson would have maintained her 55% lead no matter how many voters cast ballots.

Unlike Mock, Richardson was less than gracious in defeat.

"Now that I have lost the election I did want to let people know my point of view about this political game," he said on his Facebook page. "This has nothing to do with losing, it has everything to do with the process. Politics is the dirtiest game you will ever play. Every day for the last 5 months I come home and need to "Wash the politics" off me because of how corrupt and dishonest the entire process truly is.
Over the course of the last 5 months, my business, my family, me, were demonized by people in this city. People that didn't even once speak with me, judged me, looked at me like I was an enemy, lied about me being a criminal, and in front of me supported me but behind my back were supporting my opponent the entire time."
I did not read or hear much of what Richardson describes in this rant, but I doubt that the attacks he experienced were more than those of Anderson, who was skewered almost daily.
As the dust settles and the 2024 elections are a few days into our rearview mirrors, the road to the 2026 elections is two years away, but there are already questions looming.
Will the mayoral election be for a strong mayor? 
Will Election Day be in March or November?
Will more candidates be running for Mayor, Seat #1, and Seat #2 than two per seat?
Will the campaigns be focused on issues or personalities?
Most of those answers will depend on the Apopka voters and what they choose to make important in 2026.
Apopka City Commission, Seat #3, Seat #4, Commissioner Nick Nesta, Commissioner-Elect Nadia Anderson, Darryl Richardson, Eric Mock, Opinion, Analysis


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  • MamaMia

    Yeah, who would want to run in the future, and join the snake pit, or the Apopka City Commission? A total viper pit, complete with back stabbing. Anyone who is on the council, or a regular there, seated watching, and you think you have made some wonderful friends there....just wait, you will see how wonderful those buddies are....LOL. The smartest guy, was the guy who changed his mind, and decided not to run, after announcing he was in the race. I read the article about the Apopka election by Florida Politics, and for a non- partisan election, all the article talked about was republican, republican, and Trump, and MAGA......how sickening, I could puke. He should be in jail, and not running for president! Posted by MamaMia

    Sunday, March 24 Report this