INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Incumbent candidates Peter O’Bryan and Joe Flescher have won the Republican primary for two seats on the County Commission.
The incumbents narrowly kept their seats, for now. They will face off against Democratic and Independent challengers in the November general election. Flescher, who won the District 2 seat, beat out fellow candidates Dale Simchick and Charlie Wilson.
Though he was not available for comment after the returns came in, earlier Tuesday evening, Flescher did not sound upbeat about his prospects.
“I’m not happy with the media coverage of the election,” Flescher said, adding that he did not want any press people at his private victory party, which was held at Mama Mia’s in Sebastian.
“I don’t need the media, I don’t want the media,” Flescher said.
Flescher received 6,663 votes, 1,042 more than second place finisher 5,621 Simchick. Wilson came in third with 4,141.
Dale Simchick was taking the loss well after receiving the news with about 100 of her supporters at C.J. Cannon’s restaurant at the Vero Beach Municipal Airport.
“First of all I have to say that it was a very exciting campaign for my family, friends and supporters. To the people who did help me I’m eternally grateful,” Simchick said.
Commissioner Gary Wheeler, who threw his support and political capital behind Simchick in the race, was not present, as he was out of state on a camping trip, according to Simchick.
It was an emotional evening for Wilson, who gathered with friends at What-A-Tavern at Royal Palm Pointe to watch returns and for the usual Tuesday-night karaoke. When it was evident that he had come in third, Wilson addressed the crowd from the karaoke microphone.
After the returns were final, Wilson said he was glad Flescher prevailed over Simchick as he didn’t want “Gary Wheeler to have three votes on the County Commission.”
Wilson said he intends to get back to “earning a good living and spending time with his family.”
“This election has been very costly to me personally,” Wilson said, referring to the controversy involving his son, which resulted in his incarceration for petition fraud.
Wilson said he called Flescher and congratulated him and then, as a constituent, urged him to keep up the fight in the utility arena.
“I asked him (Joe) to do one thing for me, that is to remember that there are still 40,000 people out there suffering at the hands of Vero Beach Electric and I asked him to take an active role on their behalf.”
District 4 winner O’Bryan beat challenger Thomas Lowther, who attempted to gain back the seat he lost to O’Bryan in 2006.
“We’re very excited and happy,” O’Bryan said. “This campaign was a very non-controversial one, the voters were able to focus on what I’d done and on my voting record and I think the voters were happy with the job I’ve done. I hope to get back in there, creating jobs and getting our economy going.”
O’Bryan received 8,267 votes, just 569 votes more than his competitor Lowther with 7,698. O’Bryan’s lead dwindled over the course of the evening from 10 points to about 4 points.
“It kinda reminded me of four years ago, we started with a lead and then it shrunk,” O’Bryan said. “So it was deja vu all over again. You’re always kind-of biting your fingernails.”
Lowther was not available for comment, but he reportedly spent the evening with about 40 core supporters at his home watching returns come in.
Flescher will face off against Democrat David Thomas Snell and Independent Carolyn Corum for the commission seat in the Nov. 2 general election.
O’Bryan will take on Democrat Steven Deardeuff and Kenneth Holmes, who does not have a party affiliation, for the District 4 seat.
The winners of the Nov. 2 general election will join Commissioners Wesley Davis, Bob Solari and Gary Wheeler on the dais.