Naples mayoral race headed to recount
Naples City Hall

A Naples City Council race is also likely going to second tally.

A race to lead the city of Naples appears bound for a recount.

Mayor Teresa Heitmann held onto a 12-vote lead over challenger Gary Price with all precincts in Naples counted and all votes tabulated, according to the Collier County Supervisor of Elections.

Heitmann gave a victory speech at an election party, according to the Naples Daily News, though the razor-thin margin still casts uncertainty on the outcome. NBC-2 reports a recount will take place March 22.

Meanwhile, city voters appear to have elected Bill Kramer and Linda Penniman to City Council seats, but a tight margin between Berne Barton and Tony Perez-Benitoa means that race will likely head to a recount as well.

Kramer won more than 20% of the vote, and Penniman received almost 20%. But just 33 votes separated Barton, with 17.5%, and Perez-Benitoa, with 17.3%.

State law requires a hand recount of all votes when the margin between a falls with a quarter of a percentage point or less.

The top three vote-getters in the Council race win seats. That likely leaves Nicholas Del Rosso, with 16%, and Garey Cooper, with 9%, out of reach of victory. But all votes in the Council race must be recounted, adding the possibility all vote totals could change.

The mayoral race saw an even closer contest, with Heitmann at 38.1% and Price at 38%. City Councilman Ted Blankenship received the remaining nearly 24% of the vote, but he was more than 1,200 votes behind either other candidate in the race.

Heitmann four years ago ousted Mayor Bill Barnett and took over City Hall at the dawn of a pandemic. Through March 14, she spent about $64,000 defending her seat but still had $50,000 in cash on hand for the final stretch. The former Naples City Council member said she remained concerned about overdevelopment and would be a bulwark against environmental threats, according to her website.

Price had the support of power players including former U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney. He spent the most on the race by far, burning through almost $284,000 through March 14, with another $11,000 still on deck to spend to close out the election cycle. He’s hoping to court voters who want change but value his institutional knowledge.

Blankenship, meanwhile, marshaled partisan support in the Collier County Republican Party and ran as the conservative choice. Through the last reporting deadline, he spent nearly $78,000 for his campaign, and entered the last days of the race with another $10,000 in the bank. He loaned himself $18,000 for the race.

City elections this year proved to be a high-priced affair all around, with each of six candidates for City Council all spending more than five figures on the race.

Barton spent nearly $82,000 running for the seat. Kramer chucked more than $70,000 into the race. Perez-Benitoa spent more than $47,000 and counting. Penniman burned through nearly $41,000. Cooper poured in more than $14,000 so far. Del Rosso spent upward of $11,000.

With Blankenship leaving his seat to run for Mayor, the Council race had no incumbents running.

Unofficial final results on Naples race, via the Collier County Supervisor of Elections.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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