Greg Frich, Rick Muggridge, Luke Singletary
LEESBURG -- Greg Frich was talking about lessons learned Tuesday night as he and a group of loyal supporters celebrated his surprisingly easy victory in his quest to unseat Bill Williams in the race for the District 5 Lee County Commission seat.
A malfunction with voting machines at the county's Redbone District pushed election returns deep into the night, but Frich came away with an unofficial 857-554 victory over the man who has been the architect of the county's budgets for the last four years.
"Lesson No. 1 tonight, I think, is that the people will be heard," Frich said after calling Williams to thank him for running a "gentlemanly" campaign. "Lesson No. 2 is that when the people speak, you'd better listen. And lesson No. 3 is that we serve an awesome God."
Frich was no doubt referencing the unpopular garbage fee collection referendum passed and eventually rescinded by the commission last year that turned many in the community against members of the board.
In other unofficial returns from Tuesday night, District 4 Commissioner Rick Muggridge claimed victory in the Republican primary over challenger Frank Taylor, grabbing 70.95 percent of the vote in an 811-332 win. Luke Singletary scored an even larger victory over Ray Timms in the District 2 race to replace outgoing Commissioner Betty Johnson. Singletary collected 941 votes to Timms' 252.
"I'm elated, excited, humbled," Muggridge said after being declared the victor. "I made some obvious missteps in my first term -- I obviously read the tea leaves wrong on the garbage issue -- but I think the people in my district forgave me and understand I'm trying to do my best for the county.
"I guess if you want to say there's a lesson learned from this election, it's that I've got to do a better job of communicating. I've already started that process by getting my website up and running, and I plan to get into listening mode after I take a little time off from campaigning. I don't know everything, and I'm frustrated by those people who claim they do. It's easy to throw rocks, but it's a lot harder to govern."
Libertarian Tim Nelson is expected to qualify as an independent candidate and challenge Muggridge in the general election. Taylor, meanwhile, said he feels that his campaign "put Muggridge on notice," even if the incumbent won their race.
"I think Mr. Muggridge is aware now that a lot of people are not satisfied with the job he's doing," Taylor said. "His being carte blanche for Ed Duffy and block voting with other commissioners is not what the people of this district are looking for."
Singletary, a political newcomer, said he was humbled by the show of support he received in District 2.
"To be standing here, thinking about maybe being elected to serve on the County Commission is unbelievable," Singletary said as he waved at voters near First Baptist Church of Albany Tuesday afternoon. "I said in the beginning that I did not intend to make promises, and I certainly won't do that now. I plan to base my decisions on facts.
"I have nothing bad to say about Ray; he and his wife (Melissa) are very nice folks. This race was not about me running against Ray. It was always about trying to make Lee County better."
Timms, who was also making his first run for office, said he felt no ill will toward Singletary.
"Me and Luke did what we said we were going to do; we stuck to the issues," Timms said. "And after meeting him and reading some of his campaign material, I realized there was not much difference between what we both wanted to do.
"I will call Luke and congratulate him, and I will support him. I'm just thankful to have had this experience. It's been a lot of fun."
In incomplete county returns, "no" votes on the special-purpose local-option transportation sales tax outdistanced "yes" votes by a 2,698-2,178 vote.