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The Villages
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Sumter County voters sent The Villages Developer a very clear message

We’d like to congratulate Sumter County voters who showed everyone last Tuesday night that no matter how money gets tossed into an election, they still have the ultimate power.

The primary election, which was held Aug. 18, was a nasty one for sure. On one side stood The Villages Developer, his crony subcontractors and the puppet Sumter County incumbent commissioners – Steve Printz, Don Burgess and Al Butler – who last year approved a 25 percent tax hike that was nothing more than a sweetheart deal for the Morse family. It was, by the way, a very real tax hike they later tried to brand as “fake news“.

Gary Search, Craig Estep and Oren Miller, from left.

On the other side of the aisle stood three Villagers who were fed up with the nonsense of seeing county commissioners take their marching orders from the Developer. It took a lot of guts for those three – Gary Search, Craig Estep and Oren Miller – to throw their hats in the ring and challenge the almighty incumbents and their fat Developer-backed war chests. They knew the incumbents would come at them with slick-and-dirty direct mail pieces and plenty of ads in The Villages Daily Sun – the Developer’s own version of Pravda – and outspend them at every turn.

But guess what? In the end, all those dirty mailers from the Tallahassee-based ’96 Consulting and all those full-color look-at-me-I’m-so-great ads and fluff Pravda-like stories in The Villages Daily Sun clearly engineered by the Developer’s top political hack didn’t mean squat. Because the bottom line was simple – residents were sick and tired of being railroaded by the Developer and his puppets and it was time for a change in what will go down in history as probably the most important election in the history of Sumter County.

Interestingly, when the ballots were counted last Tuesday night and the incumbents slinked off to lick their wounds, we found out that Search, Estep and Miller handily won every precinct in The Villages. That’s right, every single one. It was just like the August 2018 GOP primary when Gov. Ron DeSantis slammed Developer-backed challenger Adam Putnam and also carried every single Villages precinct in Sumter County.

Defeated incumbents Don Burgess, Al Butler and Steve Printz, from left.

You’d think the Developer would get the message but unfortunately he apparently still thinks money talks and we’re all stupid and don’t know what’s best for us. Here’s what we do know – if we were running for office, we’d kindly thank him to steer clear of backing us. Unless, of course, we really didn’t want to win and then we’d welcome him into our fold.

In you’re wondering how bad the challengers whipped the incumbents in the commission races, it looked something like this:

  • Search collected 28,560 votes to Butler’s 14,052 in the District 1 GOP contest.
  • Estep had 28,328 votes to Burgess’ 14,378 votes in the District 3 Republican contest.
  • And Miller picked up 24,254 votes in a three-way contest with Burgess (13,325 votes) and Daniel Myslakowski (5,006 votes).

We tip our hat to the Villages trio for having the guts to put their names on the ballot and prove that David can, indeed, still defeat Goliath. They stepped forward at a time when voters needed them. And even though were facing what appeared to be an uphill battle, they got out in the community and met voters face to face instead of sitting around like the incumbents who struggled early on in their quest to even get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot – and eventually had to buy their way into the election.

Fake Sumter County Commission write-in candidates Pete Wahl and Jerry Prince.

Yes, folks, we all learned a lot in this election. We saw the Developer stoop to an all-time low by having two of his “yes” men – the desperate-to-be-relevant Pete Wahl and Jerry Prince – enter two of the races as write-in candidates to prevent Democrats and NPA voters from participating in the primary. We saw thousands of dollars pour into the pockets of the incumbents from Villages-connected businesses. And we saw unbelievable levels of arrogance and heard statements from the incumbents that truly showed just how out of touch they were.

But we also saw something great. We saw the people speak through the ballot box – like it’s supposed to be done – and bring about much-needed change. It was a beautiful thing to see – democracy at its best at the local level.

That said, the people have spoken and before long, we’re all going to see a much different kind of Sumter County Commission. We’re going to see commissioners in action who are beholden to Sumter County residents instead of the guy with the biggest wallet. And we’re going to see the Developer get shut down when he tries to ram stuff down residents’ throats to benefit himself and his family.


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