Turner, Alpert Bring Past Successes to November Face-off

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY AUG 24, 2020

A six-person battle in August becomes a two-person fight in November, as former Sarasota City Commissioner Terry Turner challenges incumbent City Commissioner Liz Alpert in the District 2 election.

 On Tuesday, 1,950 votes were cast for Turner, making him the top vote-getter in the primary for Sarasota City Commission District 2, while Alpert won 1,886. Separated by about 1 percentage point in the vote, the two registered Democrats led a field of Republican opponents, with Alpert besting third-place finisher Joe Barbetta, a former County Commissioner, by 842 votes, or about 13 percentage points.

While this is the first time in decades the election was held in the general election cycle, Turner said it did not feel altogether different from a traditional city election. Certainly, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced forums onto Zoom and limited the ability to go door to door to meet voters, had the bigger effect. He expects significant differences competing for attention with the presidential election in November. But he feels good.

“The election results show voters are ready for a change,” Turner said. “71% voted for change. I think voters are concerned with the general economic condition and with the direction the city is going in financially, and I think they are concerned they are not being heard.”

Alpert, of course, disagrees. She feels good about her standing in a primary fending off a number of critics, and feels her own support remains solid. “It feels almost like the same group of voters who were not supporting me in 2015," she said. "I’m running against the same kind of entity and someone who holds the same stance on a lot of city issues (as I ran against then)."

In 2015, Alpert defeated incumbent Eileen Normile, who had been appointed to the City Commission to fill out Paul Caragiulo’s term after his election to the City Commission. Normile would later help form the group STOP, which was driven by neighborhood activists. Turner was politically aligned with many of the same leaders during his term on the City Commission from 2009 to 2013. 

Alpert feels she performed well with voters in the primary thanks to support for number of recent issues, including her vote for a mask mandate and for the city’s proactive grant program supporting small businesses during the pandemic. “We just have to work that much harder to get our message out,” she said.

Turner, though, said many of Alpert’s votes give voters pause. From a plan approved with Alpert’s support to lease the Lido Beach pavilion to a private vendors to a master plan for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens shot down but with Alpert dissenting and cheerleading the project, Turner said the incumbent remains out of step. Meanwhile, his background leading the city while it recovered from a recession should help this year. “I thinking we’re coming into a much worse recession now," he said, "and I think my financial experience will be important."

 

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