Decision Apopka 2018


By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice

In modern-day elections, landslides are a rarity. Unless it’s a very small town or the electorate is of one specific ideology, two qualified, and well-funded candidates will almost always be in for a relatively close election.

In Apopka, there have been six general election contests, and five runoffs since 2012, and in all 11 outcomes no candidate eclipsed 55.51% of the vote. Not since 2010 has anyone rose above 60% in an election.

But that changed in a big way yesterday.

Orange County Commissioner and now Apopka Mayor-Elect Bryan Nelson stood on the corner of Central Avenue and Fifth Street for 12 hours on Election Day waving to passers-by, residents, and supporters as they made their way to the VFW/Apopka Community Center to vote. And despite the static nature of manning a post, he changed the structure of Apopka almost as much as the historic tornado of 1918.

Apopka politics may never be the same.

Nelson thrashed Kilsheimer with 63.4% of the vote, the largest margin of victory in an Apopka election since Commissioner Kathy S. Till defeated Sammy Ruth with 65.5% of the vote in 2008. Nelson received an astounding 4,103 votes, the most ever by a candidate for Apopka mayor.

The message was loud and clear, but what caused this overwhelming turnout of support for Nelson? What is the anatomy of this landslide?

In the 2014 Apopka Mayoral General Election, Kilsheimer received 2,353 votes compared to Mayor John Land’s 1,995, and two other candidates combined for 690 votes. The turnout was 4,961. The following month Kilsheimer defeated Land in the runoff with 3,352 votes and the turnout was 6,155. Essentially, there were 1,884 “soft voters” in the runoff  (the additional 1,194 voters plus the 690 voters from the general election that voted for other candidates) and Kilsheimer attracted 999 of them.

In order to win re-election in 2018, Kilsheimer would need to maintain his base, and keep those “soft voters” on his side of the ledger. Evidence of this happening would be in a high turnout, and an overperformance in precinct 9204, which was where Kilsheimer drew the majority of his votes in the previous election.

And by 7 pm on Election Day, a record 6,467 voters had turned out, which was a surprising figure considering only 2,637 voted early or mailed in their ballots. It also looked like good news for Kilsheimer when Precinct 9204 had 24.84% participation from its voters, compared to only 17.92% for Precinct 9104.

The groundwork had been laid, it seemed, for a photo finish between Kilsheimer and Nelson.

But soon after 7 PM, partial results were released by the Election Supervisor’s website, and it became clear that while the model for a close election might be present, the results were not.

In 2018, Kilsheimer seemed to only hold his base together, which was good enough to win the general election in 2014, but not good enough to overcome Nelson’s groundswell of support. All of the soft votes Kilsheimer received in 2014 either stayed home or voted for Nelson.

The Apopka Voice Reader’s Poll conducted in February predicted a Nelson victory by a modest margin of 53-47%. It missed by 10% on Nelson’s total mark but was extremely accurate in the Seat #1, and Seat #2 races, correctly predicting all eight candidate’s final position on election day and closely predicting their vote percentages. So perhaps this suggests that Nelson actually had a modest lead in February that extended from 53.6% to 63.4% in the final month of the campaign.

In the 1980 Presidential Election, Ronald Reagan trailed President Jimmy Carter in the polls well into October before ultimately winning the election by over 10% in the popular vote and 489-49 in the Electoral College. This Apopka Mayoral race had that sort of feel to it; a close race that suddenly broke wide open for Nelson in the last days.

But why?

It’s hard to know exactly what caused an election between two seemingly evenly matched opponents to turn so one-sided. Both candidates were undefeated, well-funded, both are experienced politicians with strong support bases within Apopka.

Perhaps Nelson just knocked on more doors and found Apopka residents that otherwise would not have participated. Perhaps his signage was just more prominent and that gave voters the appearance that he was the favorite.

But those are intangibles, and it takes more than intangibles for a margin this wide to occur.

Perhaps if the Splash Pad had gone in last summer, or the Alonzo Williams Community Center was completed in the fall, or the City Center had begun to take shape, or the Community Redevelopment Agency had been more visibly effective, Kilsheimer’s message of moving Apopka forward would have resonated with more voters than just his base.

It’s a difficult political puzzle to solve, but one that will be speculated on at least until election season returns in 2020.

Congratulations to you Mayor-Elect Bryan Nelson. It was an impressive campaign. And thank you Mayor Joe Kilsheimer for your service to the community.




  1. I am sickened with the mentality of the voters. Mayor Kilsheimer spent 4 yrs bringing our town to current time. We now will withdraw back in time and people will leave Apopka for better areas like Winter Garden. Very sad.

    • The mentality of the Apopka residents is quite high and it speaks well to see such a decided advantage in votes which sends a message that the residents were not happy with the last 4 years. Mayor Joe even lost over 800 votes from his total in 2014. Apopka will now be the beneficiary of Mayor Bryan Nelson showing integrity, class, and respect to ALL the residents.

    • What really sickened me was all of your nasty posts and support for Joe Lobbyheimer. I guess you were too ignorant to see all of the negative news brought about the city while under Joe’s four years of destruction. Wake up, and stop drinking that kool-aid and JUST GO AWAY !!!!!!!

    • Sorry to read you feel this way..But the people who voted our current Mayor Bryan Nelson had in their hearts the one and only Apopka..It is the town we all live and decided to bite with our hearts and not our pockets!The Angels listened in…And they heard our prayers….

  2. Bryan Nelson knocked on our door and said hello. On election eve, his campaign left a small flag and a site specific reminder in our yard. Nelson isn’t out to grab the spotlight, he’s a hard worker. The first announcement I heard from the current administration was mayor Joe’s office was hiring a web specialist to get the message out to the world. The second announcement was the mayors salary increase from $13000 per year to $150k. Soon after the folks in finance were leaving. Lets see if mayor nelson can clean up the mess Joe is leaving.

  3. Or perhaps… change for those that have deep rooted beliefs in the past and fear logical vision of what it takes to prepare our city for our children’s future. Throughout the campaign direct questions of the new mayors base only was met with “ what they don’t like” not what the lineage mayor had to offer. I was personally attacked by his supporters calling me a racist , go back to my Island. One fine outstanding multigenerational citizen pointed out to me that in Apopka we say Hello not Hola. All this as the moderated for their particular page had new rules for posting, reminding us that no personal attacks would be tolerated. Ha! Well it seems that Apopka Then and now is back to then. But this city with its great resources ( the people) will continue to move forward even no matter what will come. It must, we must, we will, we can. Thank you Gracias.

  4. The election results can be analyzed over and over, until the cows come home, but it is, what it is….. The winds of change have blown through our town, and our citizens have spoken!

  5. The sweetest part of the Apopka Election Day for me was the free big butterscotch cookie I ate complements of Aunt Gingibread’s bakery shop downtown Apopka on Park Av. for voting on Apopka Election Day….delicious, thanks Aunt Gingibread! Now, I am hooked forever! (with diabetes too)

  6. Mayor- Elect Bryan Nelson, Question: Will you remove most of those cattails at Dream Lake Park across the lake frontage, behind where the Boy Scouts built the super nice bridge, where we can actually fish there at the lake park, like it was intended to be used for? Or at least, where we can SEE the lake?…. Please, I am not too proud to beg, as I have begged lots of times before, for that reason (to remove the cattails) to no avail.

  7. The reason why Nelson won was simple. An all out front attack and Support from Social media. Apopka Critic, Apopka Then & Now and Apopka Uncensored and all 3 disliked Joe Immensely. They distorted the facts and put out Conspiracy Theories that he’s pocketing money from outside interest. But that’s just a small portion. Joe also lost because you had 2 black candidates running for commissioner who both were against Joe and were with Dean and who poisoned the minds of the black voters against Joe and when they showed up for the polls to vote for smith and bell they also voted against Joe. Joe knocked on doors but he didn’t go into south apopka and he should have stuck to the message of this is how we were this is what i did since being in office and do you want to go back to that. Record number of voters. Now you know

    • Black voters are able to think and decide for themselves. We are not just following along as brainless sheep. The Black Voters have lived throughout the city of Apopka for many generations. We possess a deep connection to this city and are able to vote according to what is best for self, family and community.

  8. Mayor- Elect Nelson….Question: Have you got any plans to chemically treat that cesspool of a pond down there at our future City Center? It looks horrible! I have mentioned this several times before the election, and it is getting worse and worse, and nothing has been done. I am expecting the Creature from the Green Swamp to drag its self out of there any day now. The mayor, at the city council, had previously said to Commissioner Dean, they were going to put in algae eating fish in there to control the algae. Even a walking catfish, if in there, would get up and walk away from that mess!

  9. Mayor Joe HAD my vote, right until a hit piece on Nelson came out using red light camera footage. Red light cameras were a hot topic this election and misusing the video from those cameras to attack a political foe was beyond the pale.

  10. Kyle nailed it. No winds of change. Another good old boy with zero integrity will be running Apopka, and not even full time. The “winds of change” indeed.

  11. The quote below is probably the most intelligent thing I read today. I supported Joe, then stayed home. He focused on bashing Nelson and taking claim of the growth he had the least control over. Everything you stated are items he had the MOST control over and failed. Making a splash pad announcement a day or so before voting…FAIL. Talkiing down to people at meetings…FAIL. Ignoring people that had nothing to offer you…FAIL. Always operating in the gray…fail.

    “… if the Splash Pad had gone in last summer, or the Alonzo Williams Community Center was completed in the fall, or the City Center had begun to take shape, or the Community Redevelopment Agency had been more visibly effective, Kilsheimer’s message of moving Apopka forward would have resonated with more voters than just his base”

  12. One could say the same thing about Ex mayor Kilsheimer’s supporters. Barb and I saw the the change coming three and 1/2 years ago. And it was reinforced 2 years ago when Sam Ruth was defeated at the polls. The sad part is that Barb and I liked Sam. But 2 years ago we saw what Sam was about. Two after what’s his name took office we knew where what’s his name was coming from.. With the two of them and the other commissioner that will be unseated in April. It was always about me and not about the the citizens of Apopka. As Jackie Gleason was fond if saying; ” How Sweet it is.” Neither Joe or Sam had the temperament to do the job.

  13. It could be many Apopka residents are sick of over growth.
    If you claim to be concerned about leaving this town to your children think about exactly that. Leave your children a small town feel, a town with trees and grass and not concrete. A town that isn’t flooded with the crimes big cities bring. A town with less traffic that too much over growth brings. Over growth is from greed.
    I’m relieved Nelson won.

  14. I did not vote for JOE because of…(i) Increased his own salary TEN fold (2) Instigated/ Voted to remove on-street parking (3) Hired a Lobbyist at over $250000.00 per year plus/ who also was paid retirement (4 Hired more department heads and extra supervisors at over $100000.00 per year EACH (5) bought scoreboard But did not install(6) Increased fees for children’s sport teams to use city facilities to practice and play (7)Promised Red light at High school Intersection. Did not install (7) Promised city park to be erected on once Errol golf course..did NOT build (8) Sued Lobbyist and LOST suit costing city taxpayers many thousands of dollars more (9) going to build a splash pad that is going to CHARGE kids to use it (10)increased utility fees and water cost(11) messed with the VFW ‘s Hall…..I will stop here, after #1 I was done supporting Joe….imho


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