LEESBURG -- Lee County voters spoke volumes about their displeasure with the status quo Tuesday night in the Republican Primary, choosing retired Marine Greg Frich to replace Bill Williams as their District 5 representative on the Lee County Commission despite Williams' touted work on the county's budget.
One stunned party, having just been told the vote totals in that race, remarked wryly, "We'll never have another balanced budget in Lee County now."
Even as he was celebrating his 857-554 victory over Williams Tuesday night, Frich was already talking about "transitioning" into the county government.
LEE ELECTION RESULTS
Final vote totals from Tuesday's Republican primary election in Lee County:
Reggie Rachals 4,270, 67.35 percent
David Cheshire 2,070, 32.65 percent
COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 2
Luke Singletary 1,000, 78.93 percent
Ray Timms 267, 21.07 percent
COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 4
Rick Muggridge 811, 70.95 percent
Frank Taylor 332, 29.05 percent
COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 5
Greg Frich 857, 60.74 percent
Bill Williams 554, 39.26 percent
No 4,192, 56.73 percent
Yes 3,198, 43.27 percent
Total Votes: 7,462 of 17,909 registered voters, 41.67 percent
Source: Lee County Elections Office
"I will reach out to Luke (Singletary, who claimed a 1,000-267 victory over Ray Timms in the District 2 race but must face Democratic challenger Mary Egler in the Nov. 6 general election) and see if we can't start working on a transition strategy as soon as possible," Frich said. "I think it's important that we start making the changeover as soon as possible.
"I have called and thanked Bill Williams for the clean, gentlemanly campaign he ran and for his service to the county."
Williams, meanwhile, admitted Wednesday morning to "being a little shocked," but he said he's not bitter about the defeat.
"As the returns were coming in, my wife told me she couldn't believe (the vote totals) after all I've done and tried to do for the county," Williams said. "I was a little shocked, but I'm OK with the outcome. I'll be a big boy about it and move on.
"I will say, though, that I'm proud of the things I've done while serving the county."
Democrat Egler said Wednesday morning she'd started fundraising for her quest to outpoll Singletary, a seemingly uphill battle in overwhelmingly Republican Lee County.
"It doesn't matter that our county is predominantly Republican, the people here have the sense to know change is needed," Egler said. "The people know I'm honest and that I will work for them.
"Unlike the other candidates, I have no financial backers; I'm earning the support I get. I'll have no ties or obligations to anyone except the voters."
Singletary said he expected a closer race in the primary, but he acknowledged that he is not counting out Egler.
"It's like I told my supporters: We have one more leg of the race to run," Singletary said Wednesday. "As long as there is a race, I will not take anything for granted. I do feel, definitely, that I have an advantage being in such an overwhelmingly Republican district. Look at the returns (from Tuesday): There were 1,267 Republican votes cast in district 2 and 108 Democratic votes.
"If that holds true and we can get those same 1,000 people who voted for me Tuesday to come back to the polls, we should be OK."
Singletary said he's already talked with Frich and met with County Administrator Tony Massey and Commission Chairman Ed Duffy to discuss issues so that he can "get a jump-start" on moving into office.
Incumbent District 4 Commissioner Rick Muggridge defeated challenger Frank Taylor 811-332, but he can't reclaim his seat yet. Libertarian Tim Nelson officially announced Wednesday that he will qualify as an independent candidate to run against Muggridge. Nelson had to secure signatures of 168 registered voters in his district to claim a spot on the general election ballot.
"I feel the working people struggling to pay their bills who have not weathered the current economic storm unscathed need to have representation that has suffered right alongside them," Nelson said in an announcement. "I look forward to representing the engine of Lee County's economy that is District 4."
Nelson challenged Lee County officials to remove portable multimessage signs promoting the special-purpose local-option transportation sales tax that was voted down by the county and the region. Lee voters rejected the 1 percent tax 4,192-3,198.
The other hotly contested race in the county went overwhelmingly to incumbent Sheriff Reggie Rachals, who outpolled former deputy David Cheshire 4,270-2,070. Rachals said his strategy to "stick to the issues and run on my record" propelled him to the easy victory.
Elections Superviser Veronica Johnson said the 41.67 percent voter turnout surpassed even the 2008 primaries in Lee County. Her office put in a later night than usual when a display board on a voting machine at one precinct malfunctioned.
"All-in-all, when you look at the overall picture, things went really good logistically," Johnson said. "The only wrinkle was the number of people who were not informed about crossing party lines to vote in the primary. I really don't know what more we could have done to inform them, though."