| Fort Myers News-Press
2020: Election Day in Florida
Here’s a look in Florida as of Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
Fort Myers city council will have two new faces and one familiar one.
Voters elected Johnny Streets, Liston “Lin” Bochette III and Darla Betzer Bonk to represent their interests in the city.
The city council and new mayor will be sworn in at the beginning of the next city council meeting on Nov. 16. City Council members make $32,630 annually and serve for four years.
In Ward 2, Streets received 2,462 votes, or 62.71%, compared to Thomas, who received 1,464 votes, or 37.29%.
“First of all, thank God and thank the people of Ward 2 and all of those who believed enough in me to have me return for an unprecedented fourth term,” Streets said. “I won’t let them down.”
The election in Ward 2, which represents the Palm Beach Boulevard corridor and parts of Dunbar got ugly after Thomas was accused of lying about where he lives, calling into question his qualification for office.
The accusation was made by Attorney Sawyer Smith, who represents Thomas’ cousin Melissa Blue, who said Thomas did not live at the Lemon Street address he used to qualify. The city charter has a requirement that candidates live in their residence within the ward for six months prior to running for election.
A hearing examiner said on Monday that Thomas did not have the burden to prove where he lives, but the city clerk did, meaning no action was made against him.
Thomas, on Monday, said that the affidavit has no merit and accused the city of going after his candidacy for political reasons.
“The comment I have is the voters of Fort Myers in my ward, unfortunately, believe the lies that were being spread by Sawyer Smith,” Thomas said. “His allegations certainly influenced the results.”
“We will certainly be filing the necessary complaints with the Bar at the appropriate time.”
Streets raised about $36,000 compared to Thomas’ $17,513.
In Ward 4, Connie Bennett-Martin lost to Bochette as the two fought to replace outgoing councilor Kevin Anderson, who won the mayor’s race against Jacquelyn McMiller.
Bennett-Martin received 2,259 votes, or 48.01%, compared to Bochette, who received 2,446 votes, or 51.99%.
Ward 4 is comprised of downtown Fort Myers and the McGregor corridor.
“We are having a big celebration,” Bochette said. “It was a very well managed campaign from the inside. I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people.”
Bennett-Martin’s grassroots campaign raised about $4,350 compared to Bochette’s well-funded machine of $51,335.
“It was a good race regardless,” Bennett-Martin said. “I’m disappointed in what the results are of course but I’m really proud of the efforts made by everyone. I wish Liston a world of success. He ran a nice campaign and I really appreciated how he was respectful throughout the whole thing.”
Bochette added, “We agree on so many things. We were laughing today. We were together. We just have different approaches on how to get it done.”
While the two are friends and declared they would share a drink on election night regardless of the results, their approaches are opposite.
Bochette wants Fort Myers to continue its growth while also bringing big city amenities. Meanwhile, Bennett-Martin wants Fort Myers to remain small with the city focusing on improvements to city infrastructure.
Bennett-Martin, a Republican, said she was invited by the Democrats to their watch party at the Luminary Hotel. She stopped by after waiting for the results with her mother, she said.
Ward 6, which makes up the eastern part of the city with its many gated communities, elected Bonk.
Margy Metzler received 5,299 votes, or 43.03%, compared to Bonk, who received 7,016 votes, or 56.97%.
“I really am just overwhelmed by it all, and I am humbled that people supported me and came out and voted,” Bonk said. “I am ready to get to work.”
Bonk raised more than $31,000 for the race compared to Metzler’s $28,387.
The candidates said they wanted the city to offer more equitable services to Ward 6 compared to the rest of the city.
Metzler, 67, moved to Fort Myers eight years ago after her husband retired from the military. She has seen Fort Myers experience growth and said she wants to guide that growth so it continues in a responsible manner.
Bonk, 44, moved to Ward 6 in 2017, but she has been a Fort Myers resident since she was 10. She said she wants to improve water quality and services for the ward since it pays the heftiest amount of property taxes.
Bonk, who owns a sheet metal manufacturing company, also wants to help the city with any financial disruptions due to the pandemic.