barb girtman
PHOTO BY THE CANOVAS PHOTOGRAPHY
GOODBYE, BARB — Volusia County Council District 1 representative Barb Girtman is with her husband, Noel Clarke, at left, and West Volusia Realtors Association CEO Ryan Tucholski at what she had hoped would be a victory party on election night.

While Democrats on the national level celebrated keeping control of the U.S. Senate and not losing as many seats as expected in the U.S. House, Democrats in Volusia County had little to celebrate. Republicans swept the local elections, from the top of the ticket to the smallest city races.

The local red tide swept out candidates who weren’t listed on the Republican slate cards, including knocking out incumbent District 1 County Council Member Barb Girtman, who lost to a challenger who campaigned very little and didn’t take a single monetary contribution.

Girtman, who was taking the pulse of voters daily on the campaign trail, wasn’t necessarily surprised by the result.

“I knew from the very beginning that this race was going to be about who showed up,” Girtman said.

And Republican voters showed up.

In the 26 races with a registered Democratic candidate across Volusia County’s state and local races, only seven Democrats won their election. That includes two races, Daytona Beach City Commission Zone 5, and Orange City Council District 2, that pitted two Democrats against each other.

While the election numbers are still unofficial, preliminary results indicate that voter turnout of registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 40,500.

“It was radically higher. We cannot believe how many more Republicans voted,” Volusia County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Jewel Dickson said of the turnout numbers. “If it was reversed and you were a Republican, you would be crying conspiracy. But, we’re Democrats.”

Dickson said the local Democratic groups will be working overtime on digging into the data, and altering their strategies going forward to register voters and get the message out.

Although all the parties have added members, the gap has widened. In 2022, Republicans accounted for 38.6 percent of all registered Volusia County voters, and Democrats 30.4 percent, as compared to 35.7 percent versus 34.1 percent in 2018.

But voter turnout was the real problem, Dickson said, despite reaching out to all registered Democratic voters in Volusia County by text, email or phone call not once, but twice, for the primary and general elections.

Democrats had about 53.61-percent turnout, while Republicans had a turnout rate of about 67.37 percent. Including those voters registered with no party affiliation, which is nearly one-third of all voters, the total turnout in Volusia County was around 55 percent.

“Our candidates were beaten because of the sheer numbers, because we had really great candidates — Barb Girtman, Danny Fuqua, Al Bouie — but when you have so many more thousands show up … .” Dickson said, trailing off. “There was not a lot of support — we’re not sure why there was a lack of support, whether it was state Democratic leadership or the DNC.”

Republicans were happy.

“I am 95 to 98 percent pleased,” Volusia County Republican Executive Committee Chair Paul Deering said.

Deering chalks the results up to three reasons: great candidates, hard work from volunteers getting voters registered, and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Perhaps not the difference on a local level, but on the state and federal level, coattails are in effect, and Ron DeSantis has great coattails,” Deering said. “The results speak for themselves.”

Elections supervisor: Few problems at polls

Of Volusia County’s 412,286 active registered voters, 55.04 percent turned out for the general election. All in all, Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis was sad that turnout wasn’t higher, but 55 percent isn’t too shabby, she said.“We always hope for more,” Lewis said, “but 55 percent is not bad.”

Whether you like them or not, mail ballots are here to stay, she said.

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN
SCRUTINY — Volusia County Elections Canvassing Board members Judge David Foxman, left, and Frank Bruno scrutinize ballots pulled from the counting because of questions about the voter’s intent, or signature, or other concerns.

Of the more than 226,000 ballots cast, 93,000 — nearly half — were mail ballots. Another 58,000 ballots were cast in-person during early voting, and approximately 75,000 voters cast their ballots on Election Day. In 2020, 143,000 mail ballots were returned to the Elections Office in Volusia County.

Thanks to recent laws passed by the Florida Legislature, requesting a mail ballot did require additional personal information than was required in 2020, but that didn’t deter voters.

There were also some hiccups on Election Day, but nothing major, Lewis said.

Eight precincts had trouble reporting data back to the Elections Office, and elections staff had to travel to two Deltona precincts to manually load data onto secure flash drives. But all of these issues were user errors, Lewis said, and not mechanical problems.

“I think poll workers are tired,” she said. “It’s a long day, especially when it gets rainy and people are cranky and want to get in their vote.”

And while Elections Office staff had to travel to several precincts during the August primaries this year due to campaign volunteers getting in voters’ faces and causing trouble, there were far fewer incidents in the general election, Lewis said. While she had to make a few phone calls to party officials to ask them to speak with overzealous volunteers, Election Day largely went off without a hitch.

“There’s some supporters who are very passionate about who they support. If someone’s walking in and they’re getting a little upset and they won’t take their literature, they make it known,” Lewis said. “Everybody should be able to come to the polls without fear of having to say, ‘No, I don’t want your literature.’”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Please let the truth be told here. I disagree with the premise that Barb Girtman lost the election because she is a registered democrat and republicans turned out to vote more than democrats this election season. I , a registered democrat, and others I know who don’t vote along party lines voted for Ms. Girtman when she ran for the District #1 seat on the County Council the first time and after witnessing her performance on the County Council did not vote for her this round, in fact I would have voted for anyone other than Ms. Girtman this time.

    Let us not forget, Ms. Girtman originally ran against and beat two dyed in the wool republicans for her County Council seat in 2018. Her two opponents in 2018 were Jeff Brower, who went on to later win the Volusia County Chair Seat, and ingrained republican politician Pat Patterson, the incumbent at the time, who had served at the highest levels in Florida politics as a elected member of the Florida House of Representatives for several terms and he served on the County Council for several different terms to include serving as County Chair. So it is easy to see the odds were heavily against Ms. Girtman in 2018 but she won based on her platform and messaging and republicans, democrats, and NPA’s voted for her.

    In 2022 Ms. Girtman had the advantage of being the incumbent, she had the advantage of being supported by many of the ingrained establishment politicians, and she had the advantage of having a lot of money, some of it being dirty dark money that came from the Volusia’s eastside developers and power brokers who have been influencing the narrative for their possible financial gains through political donations.

    So let us be honest here, Ms. Girtman won, over two hardcore republicans, in 2018 because she worked hard and as a seasoned professional sales person she delivered a good message, however, she lost in 2022 because once in office after 2018 she failed to deliver, she was condescending to those who had previously supported her, she became part of the bureaucracy and the establishment, and we all started to see through the cutesy sayings, the big smiles, and giggles. We discovered what she had sold us in 2018 was never delivered and it was obvious we here in Volusia County were simply her stepping stones for her future political aspirations.

    In the end, many of us voted for Don Dempsey, who did little campaigning and raised no money, because we were voting for anyone other than Barb Girtman who had failed us.

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