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Republican primary voters select Mann, Ruane and Sandelli for County Commission seats

August 18, 2020
Nathan Mayberg ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Republican primary voters backed two incumbents, along with Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane for three seats on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday.

The Republican primary for District 1 went to Ruane with 62% of the vote over Bokeelia resident Michael Dreikorn. There is no Democratic Party challenger for the seat being vacated by Republican John Manning. The district includes Cape Coral and Sanibel.

In District 3, which covers Fort Myers Beach, Estero, Bonita Springs and part of Fort Myers, Republican primary voters chose incumbent Ray Sandelli over Village of Estero Trustee Nicholas Batos. Sandelli, of Bonita Springs, had 62% of the vote. Sandelli was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to fill the seat of the late Larry Kiker.

Sandelli will face Democrat Todd Truax, a former health care administrator, in the general election.

"I didn't know what to expect," Sandelli said. "This is the first time I have been in a campaign."

Sandelli said his top priority the last several months was the CARES Act and the county's LeeCares program which he said he was "deeply involved in." In May, Sandelli advocated for adding millions more to the county's program through CARES Act funding to help those affected by the economic downturn that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. The county's program has provided millions to help county residents with rent payments, mortgage payments, utility bills as well as funding for businesses.

"My priority is those jobs and getting back to work," he said. "How do we recruit new businesses?"

Batos said he congratulated Sandelli on his victory and said that he thought the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for him to get his message out throughout the county. Batos lamented that his "message of controlled growth and having developers pay more for what they want to develop" wasn't able to get out more or "wasn't the message (Republican primary voters) wanted."

Sandelli said he believes the county has made "some significant contributions" to the Conservation 20/20 program and said he supports smart growth where developers set aside part of the land on their developments for conservation into perpetuity. "We're moving in the right direction," Sandelli said.

Sandelli's opponent in November, Todd Truax, has described COVID-19 as the top priority and supports a mask mandate. "You have to be careful with mandates," Sandelli said. A Mandate leads to enforcement issues, he said. "If you try to educate people to wear a mask in a closed environment, you can mitigate and protect your health." Sandelli said the county is not discouraging mask-wearing. "We're encouraging it in a different way."

In District 5, Republican primary voters backed incumbent and veteran Lee County politician Frank Mann by the largest landslide of the county commissioner candidates, garnering more than 67% of all ballots against the challenge of Steven Haas. The campaign grew controversial over an email sent by Haas, who runs a truck firm, that contained a racial epithet. Mann will face Democratic Party challenger Rev. Juan Gonzalez in the general election. The district includes Fort Myers, North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres.



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