The dismissal of the charges against Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino narrowly propelled him past political newcomer Karen Sindel, 1,810-1,660. Two veteran politicians, Dave Murzin (state representative, 2002-2010) and George Touart (county administrator, 2002-2007) barely showed in the vote totals, 1,195 and 595). Touart and Murzin’s combined vote totals wouldn’t have beat Valentino.
Valentino had been charged with soliciting accepting campaign contributions in his county office, but an Okaloosa County County judge had dismissed the charges 10 days before the primary.
Sindel’s second place finish is a huge surprise for the rookie candidate who raised the least amount of money, but probably had the best ground game. She had the endorsement of the IN and the daily newspaper. She will be contender if she chooses to run in again in 2014.
Touart got what I call the “dead man’s” vote, garnering only 11 percent of the vote. People have died after being placed on a ballot and gotten at least 20 percent. Touart spent $65,302 on his campaign—about $109.75 per vote. His poor showing puts to rest the McNesby-Whitehead-Touart political machine that dominated county politics from 2002-2007. The Wisconsin hunting buddies and their supporters are left without any viable candidate to get them back into the power games.
Murzin is out of politics and government work for the first time since graduating from college. His last-minute advertising push wasn’t enough in a race where battle lines had been drawn months before he switched from the state senate race.
There are 15 precincts in District 2. Valentino won all but five. His stronghold was the Perdido Key area, where he had his largest margins over Sindel, 731-498. Despite his attempt to get a bingo casino on the key and not voting for an overlay district, Valentino still won Perdido Key and Innerarity Point.