In county commission races, one seat highly contested, other goes unopposed

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Two Gulf County commissioners were up for reelection this year, but only one will be facing opposition on the November ballot.

Ward McDaniel, a Wewahitchka Republican currently representing the county’s District Two, faces three challengers this year – Republican Billy Traylor, Republican Tom Semmes and Democrat Michael Riley.

“We don’t have a whole lot locally that is going to be going on the ballot,” said Gulf County Supervisor of Elections John Hanlon. “County Commission District 2 is going to be the only local race that’s on the ballot.”

McDaniel, Semmes and Traylor will square off in a primary election on August 23 for the seat, which represents areas between Wewahitchka and Beacon Hill. Because these three candidates are Republican, the primary will be open to any registered voter in District 2.

The candidate with the highest number of votes will move on to the November General Election ballot. No runoff elections are held in partisan local races.

Because Riley is the only Democrat running for the seat, a Democratic primary will not be held. Riley will automatically move on to the November election.

Only registered voters within the limits of County Commission District 2 will be eligible to vote in the race during the primary and general elections.

“We are single member districts,” Hanlon said. “The entire county is not going to be voting on that – only District 2 voters.”

Chairman of the Board of County Commissioner Sandy Quinn will be sailing through this election season after no opposing candidates qualified to run against him for his District 4 seat.

Quinn will be sworn in following the November election, along with the winner of the District 2 race.

Gulf District Schools’ three school board members who were up for reelection this year will also be returned to their seats after none of them drew opposition in their races.

Denny McGlon, Brooke Wooten and Ruby Knox will all go on to serve additional terms.

But just because County Commission District 2 is the only local race voters will see in 2022, it does not mean that the November ballot will be barren.

“Even though we don’t have a lot of local races, there are still the federal and state races on that ballot,” Hanlon said. “You’re going to be able to vote on the governor, and the chief financial officer, and the commissioner of agriculture and all those positions too.”

Voters in 2022 will face a changed election landscape, after the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 90 in 2021.

Voters must provide their date of birth and their Florida driver's license number or Florida ID card number, or last four digits of their Social Security number when making an address change by phone or electronically. The same information must be provided when voters submit a Florida Voter Registration Application.

A voter must have a request on file to receive a vote-by-mail ballot. One request will cover all elections through the end of the calendar year, or the next scheduled general election. Existing requests on file are valid through the end of 2022.

In the event an immediate family member or legal guardian requests a vote-by-mail ballot on a voter’s behalf, he or she must provide the requestor’s relationship to the voter, as well as the requestor’s name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number or four numbers of their Social Security number.

Voters must be registered through the Gulf County Supervisor of Elections’ Office prior to 29 days before a given election to vote.

Hanlon said although he normally can guess pretty accurately, voting numbers were difficult to predict for this election cycle.

“For the first time, I honestly don’t know,” he said. “We have so many factors going on with the Covid, the pandemic and the economy right now. There’s a lot of voter fatigue out there, and generally speaking, voter turnout is lower on midterm election years than on presidential election years.”

“We normally have between 40 and 62 percent voter turnout, but I honestly cannot make a prediction at this time.”

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