Primary results in local change

While no one was sure how the primary elections would go on Tuesday in light of the pandemic going on throughout the world, the residents of Marion County showed up and made sure their voices were heard.

And there were a few surprises the voices gave Marion County. On was in the race for County Commissioner District 2 office. The race that many anticipated as being the closest one ended up not being close at all.

In fact, Mike Beneke won the spot by a substantial amount—397-153.

“I was surprised the interest outside of our district was just as great as within our district. Everybody was relieved of the outcome not only in our district but the entire county. I was pretty confident I would win and I didn’t even do anything. Anyone who knows me knows that I care about this county and I will give whatever I can for it,” said Beneke.

In fact, Beneke did not even get to speak about his goals to the Free Press because he was overlooked when the other candidates were interviewed. The Free Press called and apologized profusely to him before the election occurred. In typical Beneke fashion, he laughed it off and said not to worry about it.

After the election, Beneke did just want to say that he has is thankful to the people for voting for him and he has one main goal.

“One of the biggest issues of Marion County will be the roads. At this point I have already donated $10,000 worth of rock for the roads this year and more than $50,000 worth of rock for the last 6-7 years. Either I can blade my roads and just tears up my equipment or I pay for the taxes and do it. I am paying for it one way or the other. My biggest concern is our taxes and what we are getting done on the roads with them,” said Beneke.

While he did beat Novak, Beneke will still face off with David Mueller of Tampa in November. Beneke isn’t worried at all.

“David is a good candidate. We took care of the main issue (referring to Novak). Both of us will do good things done.”

Beneke knows that those who know him well know he will do anything for his county and he is also fun and has a good heart. He also knows that those who don’t know him may not know how to take him. But he is willing to get to know anyone and he will talk to anyone.

“I just want the roads to improve. I love our county and I know a lot about it. I don’t just talk about it. I

do stuff to make it better even if I have to pay for it myself,” said Beneke.

Regardless of how November turns out with the vote, one thing is known—Novak is out.

Novak did not have much to say about it and has not been seen publicly in the two commission meetings held since the elections, opting to attend virtually instead of in person.

She declined to give a comment initially when asked for one, but she later emailed one.

“It is obvious that my professional experience, hard work and conservative policies are not needed in Marion County, therefore the election results are a blessing,” said Dianne Novak.


Many have had questions on who can run in the primary vs the election in November. Marion County Clerk Tina Spencer helped explain things and cleared up some of the confusion.

“Several years ago, the deadline to change parties or to unaffiliated was changed to June 1 at noon.

Any unaffiliated candidates must file by petition no later than noon on the day before the Primary Election. According to our election standards, the filing deadline on the day before the Primary Election prevents so-called “sore loser” campaigns where a candidate who loses in the Primary runs as an independent candidate in the general election for the same office,” said Spencer.

Thus, the “sore loser” rule would prevent Novak or Randy Eitzen from running again and winning in November. However, they could still run a write-in campaign if they wanted to attempt the difficult task.

“The filing deadline for all positions has passed. However, anyone may run a write-in campaign,” said Spencer.

At this point that is the only way that any of those not receiving a nomination in August can be elected.

“There is one filed unaffiliated candidate for the General Election. David Mueller of Tampa will face Michael Beneke for the Commission District 2 seat,” said Spencer.

Spencer and her staff had to work around the clock to make the election a success and they still aren’t finished.

“I really would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make the election happen—my staff in the office, all of the poll workers, especially those who stepped into new roles or worked alternate locations to help fill the gaps, special counting boards, and resolution boards that worked late into the night on Election Day. It takes a small army of people to successfully administer an election, and we have really amazing, dedicated workers in Marion County,” said Spencer.

And Spencer is mindful that she and her staff would not have a job without voters.

“I also want to thank everyone who took the time to vote! I don’t have enough words to convey the importance of participating in this democratic process! Your vote is your voice. Don’t ever let it be silent,” said Spencer.

There are still several more days of work to finish compiling all of the information. Then the official canvass will be held on August 14 at which time the Board of County Canvassers will review and process the provisional ballots, determine the winners, and certify the results.

And then her staff prepares for November.

More from Laura Fowler Paulus
Hillsboro Hospital evacuated after bomb threat
Hillsboro Community Hospital was evacuated early Thursday afternoon after two employees received...
Read More