On March 15th, Apopka came out in force to vote in the Presidential Preference Primary and for six candidates in their local City Commission races. Over 10,000 voters made selections and at the end of the evening there were two clear winners - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The Apopka part of the election was a little less cut-and-dried.
Despite record turnout, the voters could not decide with a majority voice which person they wanted to sit in Seats #3 and #4. At the end of the evening, the best they could do was to pare the candidates down from six to four.
Arrowsmith, Bankson, Becker, Ruth – the final four Apopka style.
For the fifth time in the last six races dating back to 2012, Apopka elections for City Commissioner and Mayor have gone to a runoff. Only Commissioner Diane Velazquez was able to win her seat on the first ballot, defeating Marilyn McQueen in 2014.
However, candidates that came in first place in general elections have fared well in the runoff. Four out of the last five times, the leader in the general holds on to defeat the candidate in second place. Only Mayor Joe Kilsheimer was able to buck that trend - winning Seat #3 in 2012 after coming in second place to Linda Laurendeau in the general election for City Commissioner.
Don’t expect tomorrow’s election to look much like the General Election in March. There was essentially no early voting, despite County Commissioner Bryan Nelson’s efforts to bring it to Apopka last week. In March there were approximately 2,500 early votes cast; this time only 31.
What is interesting is that a similar amount of absentee ballots have been sent back to the Supervisor of Elections as last time – around 2400. In
March it was 2,557 for the Seat #3 race and 2,578 in Seat #4.
Are there any clues as to the final results because of this similarity?
In those absentee ballots in March, Doug Bankson received 1,044 votes, Commissioner Sam Ruth 995 and Alice Nolan 518 in Seat #3. Commissioner Arrowsmith received 1,156 votes, Kyle Becker 1,077 and Young Kim 345 in Seat #4. Assuming those are essentially the same absentee voters as before, it would not be surprising to see similar figures in absentee voting tomorrow.
The only question would be where are the Kim and Nolan voters going? Or are they going at all?
The Young Kim voter would seem to be a natural transition for Becker to court. Kim endorsed both Becker and Ruth in the runoff elections. Both are first-time candidates running against a 39-year incumbent. Both Becker and Kim ran primarily against Arrowsmith’s record, and Arrowsmith took the extra step of calling Kim ignorant in a debate at Apopka High School. It would be hard to imagine a Kim voter shifting to Arrowsmith. The bigger question is how many will return to vote at all? In order for Becker to overtake Arrowsmith, he may need a decent percentage of Kim voters to turn out.
The Nolan voter seems to be more mysterious as for their preferences. While Nolan has endorsed both Arrowsmith and Bankson, the Nolan voter’s path seems less clear. It may take Election Day results to clearly know which candidate lands the majority of them – if either does.
So if we seemingly have those absentee ballots figured out, what does that tell us about tomorrow? Over the past three cycles, early voting totals and Election Day totals have been approximately a 50/50 split. If that holds true, then expect about 2,500 more Apopkans to vote tomorrow and a total turnout of around 5,000. The runoff election in 2014 had a turnout of 6,165 and an Election Day turnout of approximately 2,700. In March over 5,000 voted on Election Day, but there were 16 polling places and Presidential candidates driving voters to the polls. This time, there is only one polling place – the VFW…and four local candidates on the ballot, none of them running for President.
Who will win? It's difficult to predict. Arrowsmith was impressive last month, but can he turnout his base and attract that level of participation again? Can Becker close an 878-vote gap by
converting 1,400 Kim voters to his side of the ledger? Can Bankson hold his slim lead over Ruth? Where will the majority of Nolan voters land?
All intriguing questions, but the answers will not become clear until tomorrow evening.