There are five new women in the halls of government and the judiciary in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties but a gain of just one seat for women as a result of this year’s election cycle.
Jennie Kinsey is the newest circuit judge in the First Judicial Circuit. She will preside in Escambia County and replaces Walton County’s Howard LaPorte, who did not run for re-election. The gain of this office, however, was negated by the loss of Pensacola City Council member Dr. Megan Pratt, whose at-large A seat was cut in the first phase of a voter-approved reduction from nine to seven Council positions.
Pensacola City Council member Sherri Myers and School Board member Linda Moultrie were re-elected. Incumbents Lois Benson (ECUA), Sandra Jackson (Century Town Council), Circuit Judge Jan Shackelford, and County Judge Darlene Dickey ran unopposed. Of 61 elected offices in Escambia County women hold 20 or 33%.
In Santa Rosa County Mary Ellen Johnson and Ashley Lay were elected to the Milton City Council, winning against male candidates in open races. Their election would have given women a two-seat gain in Santa Rosa but for Holley-Navarre Fire Commissioner Nancy Morgan, who did not run for re-election and was replaced by a male.
In the City of Gulf Breeze Renee Bookout won a seat on the City Council without opposition, but her win was balanced by the retirement of Mayor Beverly Zimmern, whose successor is male.
The other new face in Santa Rosa is Carol Boston, who defeated a male opponent to win the District 3 School Board seat previously held by retiring member Diane Coleman.
Milton City Council member Patsy Lunsford and School Board member Diane Scott were re-elected. Of 64 elected offices in Santa Rosa County women hold 15 or 23%.
From a comparison between races and candidates for the 2014 primary/general election cycle two conclusions may be made: Women incumbents held their own, and women challengers could not win against male incumbents.
In the primary/election cycle in Escambia County 22 offices were up for election; that number includes the circuit judgeship and the two state house seats that primarily represent the county. Twelve women competed for ten of those seats, and six won. Three incumbents were unopposed; one incumbent defeated a male challenger; one incumbent won against a woman challenger in the primary and defeated a male challenger in the general election; and one woman candidate defeated another for an open seat.
In Santa Rosa County 28 offices were up for election, including a state house seat. Fourteen women competed for seven of those seats, and six won. One incumbent won against a male challenger, and another incumbent won against a woman challenger. Three women defeated male candidates for open seats, and one woman was unopposed for an open seat.
This information is provided by the Institute for Women in Politics of Northwest Florida, Inc. as the starting point of elections data that will provide a yardstick for measuring women’s progress in the political arena in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties. As research resources become available, the database will also accumulate historic elections data.
The Institute is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2013 to develop women leaders through outreach, training, and mentoring and to work toward increasing the number of highly competent women in political office and government.
Report submitted by:
Board of Directors
Diane Mack, President