The Gulf County Board of County Commissioners is going to look a little different come the end of the month, with its longest-serving current member leaving office and a familiar face returning to reclaim the seat.
Billy Traylor (R) resoundingly defeated Michael Charles Riley (D) in the Gulf County District 2 race, winning back the County Commissioner title he previously held for more than two decades before losing in the Republican primary in 2010.
He will be sworn in at the November 22 county commission meeting.
“Thank you District 2 for your overwhelming support in electing me to represent you!” Traylor wrote in a Facebook post following the election. “Thanks to my opponent, Mike Riley, for a positive campaign!”
“To all the people of Gulf County — I could never tell you how much your thoughts and prayers have helped me through my battle with cancer. I love Gulf County. Thank each and every one of you. God Bless!”
Traylor underwent treatments for brain cancer while campaigning for the seat, which he reclaimed from Ward McDaniel, who currently holds it and who won the position as a Democrat in 2010 after Traylor lost the Republican primary for the role.
According to the Gulf County Supervisor of Elections’ website, Traylor received 977 of 1,268 total votes from District 2, or 77.05 percent. Riley received the remainder — 291 votes, or 22.95 percent.
The total countywide voting turnout was 61.70 percent, as 6,440 of the county’s 10,437 voters cast ballots in an election that featured a host of key state and federal races.
“That’s fantastic turnout for a midterm election,” said Gulf County Supervisor of Election John Hanlon.
Countywide, voter turnout for the 2022 general election was exceptionally high this year, with the national average for voter turnout during a midterm election year hovering between 40 and 50 percent.
“You expect a good turnout on the presidential election years, but usually speaking, a midterm, you’re lucky if you get in the 40s,” Hanlon said. “… There were a lot of races people were motivated to vote in this election.”
The large turnout Tuesday could be traced to several significant races on the ballot that affected county voters beyond county lines.
Governor Ron DeSantis (R) won his second term in his race against former Governor Charlie Crist (D).
Polls leading up to the election had Desantis leading by double digit margins in many parts of the state, and though Crist was able to rally support in the form of donations following an explosive debate between the candidates on October 25, the Democrats were ultimately unable to recuperate the difference in votes.
The win represented a larger shift towards the right statewide — with Republicans sweeping several key races in what was once the nation’s largest swing state.
In a closely-watched competition between two incumbent U.S. representatives, Neal Dunn (R) defeated Al Lawson (D).
It was Florida’s only congressional race featuring two incumbents, after statewide redistricting earlier this year saw Dunn and Lawson’s districts combined.
In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Marco Rubio (R) ultimately claimed the seat over U.S. Representative Val Demings (D).
Political newcomer and former professional football player Corey Simon narrowly won the race for State Senate District 3, which encompasses Gulf County. He defeated incumbent Loranne Ausley.
The District 3 race was one of the most closely-watched in the state, with Ausley’s seat having been considered one of the senate Democrats’ most vulnerable and senate Republicans only one seat away from achieving a supermajority.
This report will be updated as further election results are finalized.