Fort Myers mayoral race: Kevin Anderson wins post over Jacquelyn McMiller

Melissa Montoya
 
| Fort Myers News-Press

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2020: Election Day in Florida

Here’s a look in Florida as of Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Fort Myers has a new mayor. It’s Kevin Anderson.

Anderson, the top vote-getter in the primary, blazed ahead of his opponent Jaccquelyn McMiller.

Anderson received 17,258, or 53.35%, compared to McMiller, who received 15,090 votes, or 46.65%. In the August primary, Anderson collected about 39% of the vote while McMiller totaled about 35%.  

Anderson, current Ward 4 Councilman, will replace outgoing Mayor Randy Henderson, who resigned in April to run for Congress but lost during the primary. Anderson is expected to be sworn in during the next council meeting on Nov. 16. He will be sworn in along with Johnny Streets, Liston Bochette III and Darla Betzer Bonk, who also won their elections on Tuesday. The Fort Myers mayor is paid an annual salary of about $42,000.

“I’m excited. I appreciate the faith and confidence the people of Fort Myers have put in me,” Anderson said. “I also want to congratulate McMiller. She showed commitment, perseverance, tenacity.”

Live blog: With polls closing at 7 p.m., voting at precincts starting to pick up

More: Latest election results for Lee County in Florida

Anderson, a retired Fort Myers police officer, celebrated his election win night at the Ranch, along with other GOP members. 

McMiller celebrated at the Luminary with fellow Democratic candidates.

The race, though traditionally nonpartisan, took on the politics of the national election. The Florida Democratic Party endorsed McMiller and helped her campaign through their Municipal Victory Program, an effort that focuses on down-ballot races.

Meanwhile, Anderson had great support from the Lee County’s GOP, with the group even sending a mailer accusing McMiller of child abuse.

The end of the election marks the end of a nasty campaign season for the two camps with Anderson going after McMiller and publicizing an expunged arrest from 2018. In his own mailer to voters, Anderson describes McMiller as a DCF investigator up until she was arrested for child abuse while describing himself as a police officer for 24 years.

The McMiller campaign called the mailer misleading because the case was dropped by the state attorney’s office and was never prosecuted. In a news release, the McMiller campaign described it as “an incomplete and false investigation by the Fort Myers Police Department.”

McMiller’s campaign also accused Anderson’s supporters of starting a fake website in her name to malign her that includes a photo of her at her first appearance. Anderson included the fake website link on his mailer.

“She tried to connect me with the corruption at the police department that was never proven at the debate and said, ‘Hey, people have the right to know’,” Anderson said. 

Anderson said he believes when the race became partisan it opened the door for nasty politicking. In recent days, McMiller’s campaign went after Anderson for donor records that show he was receiving large sums of money from a smaller number of people while McMiller’s campaign brought in smaller contributions.

In total, McMiller has received more than $56,000 in contributions while Anderson’s war chest has more than $140,000.

Anderson joined city council in 2018 after a special election to fill a vacancy and decided to run for council after Henderson resigned, stating that the city needs leadership for all of Fort Myers. He said he is for more transparency and has focused on affordable housing, but more recently he voted for the city to fund workforce housing instead. 

McMiller, 55, was born in Midway about 60 miles northwest of Tallahassee. She moved as a child with her family to Fort Myers 50 years ago. McMiller said she grew up in Dunbar and has lived in Gateway, which helps her understand the area better. 

She counted on her experience as a court reporter in the judicial justice system and on her time as a child welfare investigator for DCF to be able to respond to the needs of the voters. 

Ultimately, she said she got in the race to give the working class a voice and has focused on the issue of affordable housing and the homeless in Fort Myers, while also urging more reform and oversight of the Fort Myers Police Department. 

“I feel great actually,” McMiller said. “I had already decided, and everyone around me was stressing other than me, however it ended it was going to end in my favor.”

McMiller said there’s so much left to be done in the city of Fort Myers and she doesn’t have to be mayor to work toward change. 

This isn’t a loss, this is just the beginning,” McMiller said.”Right now I just want to sleep and spend some time with my family, eat dinner with my family again.”

As for the level of mud-slinging, McMiller said: “I was hoping there would be more integrity but people will do whatever they need to do to win.”

Previous coverage: Kevin Anderson, Jacquelyn McMiller compete

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