Republicans dominate state, local races
U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho smiles while he waits for the final results of Florida’s 3rd Congressional District election. “I want to see the final results, but I feel good,” Yoho said.
 

When Keith Perry won the election for State Senator for District 8, his daughter Alexis was quick to grab a piece of cake with her father’s face on it.

The crowd cheered “USA! USA! USA!” as Perry addressed the crowd at Ballyhoo. He thanked his family for their support during his fifth campaign.

In Alachua County, more than 114,000 voters cast their ballots for the midterm elections, which is over 63 percent of the county voters, according to the Supervisor of Elections office. This is a surge of more than 13 percent compared to the last midterm election in 2014 where a little less than 80,000 ballots were cast.

Republican Perry won 50 percent of the vote for the Florida State Senate Tuesday night compared to his Democratic opponent Dr. Kayser Enneking at 48 percent.

Perry said his first act after being re-elected will be to sleep in Wednesday morning. Even on Tuesday, Perry was at the polls doing last-minute campaigning after seven months.

“It’s really just a weight off your shoulders,” Perry said. “It’s a time to relax and regroup.”

Enneking conceded the race to Perry in a cordial phone call, Perry said.

“She ran a heck of a campaign,” Perry said. “A lot of people voted for Dr. Enneking, I need to make sure I represent them, listen to them, get input from them and try to make sure I represent this district and everyone involved.”

Enneking wrote two speeches in preparation for Tuesday night, but they were almost identical.

Win or lose, Enneking said she felt the same: thankful.

A crowd of more than 100 voters listened eagerly, some with red, watery eyes, as she conceded in Cypress & Grove Brewing Co. almost three hours after the start of a watch party with all the other local Democratic candidates.

Though the results weren’t what she hoped for, she said she will be a better citizen after running for a political office. She said she better understands the people and issues she represents.

Enneking beamed while she reflected on the last hours leading up to the disappointing results. When she came around the corner at her last stop of the evening, she said a line of voters spilled out of the building and wrapped around the parking lot.

“It was democracy in action. It’s the America I know,” she said.

Ted Yoho won for the fourth time in a row Tuesday night, but this is the last time he’ll run for reelection.

Surrounded by his wife, three kids, and long-time supporters, at his watch party at The Social, Yoho said that he ran a strong campaign and was honored his supporters wanted him back in office.

Yoho, a Republican, won more than 58 percent of the vote compared to his Democratic opponent Yvonne Hayes Hinson at 42 percent.

Yoho said voters must feel relieved.

"No more robocalls, no more phone calls asking who you're going to support," he said. "We can go back to some normalcy in this country."

Yvonne Hayes Hinson campaigned until the last minute, but the 70-year-old said no matter the result, she’s at peace.

“It was very clean. It was a lot of work,” Hayes Hinson said. “I think I got into every nook and cranny of the third congressional district. I know the heartbeat of those areas.”

Though Hayes Hinson lost to Yoho, the former Gainesville city commissioner said she’s proud of how she ran her campaign.

Hayes Hinson said her integrity and strict focus on the issues at hand are the reasons why she’s content with the election’s outcome.

“We stuck to the issues and the issues that mattered to the people. We always centered ourselves on what was necessary for the people,” she said.

More than 120 people cheered as Clemons’ victory was announced. He took to the microphone to thank God and his supporters.

“We have a divided nation now and we need to work towards civility. We need to work towards solving problems with our neighbors in a kind way, Clemons said. “When I return to Tallahassee, I intend to start a wave of civility.”

Over three dozen young people worked on Clemons’ campaign, he said. Several of them had never participated in a political campaign before.

“With young leaders like this, our country is in good hands for the next few years,” Clemons said.

Clemons, a Republican, won with 52 percent of the vote compared to his Democratic opponent Jason Lee Haeseler with 49 percent.

Just minutes prior he said he was still optimistic about the results but soon conceded defeat.

“Tonight’s outcome is not what he hoped for, it’s not what we were working towards,” Haeseler said. “We really believed in this campaign and we just came up a little bit short this time.”

Haeseler said he is proud of his campaign and will continue to be civically engaged in the future.

“We kept it focused on the issues, we didn’t make it personal, we didn’t make it about mudslinging,” he said. “We stayed true to our principles and I’m very proud of that.”

The fourth time was the charm for Marihelen Wheeler. After three unsuccessful political campaigns, two for the Florida House of Representatives and one for U.S. Congress, Wheeler won a seat in the Alachua County Commission District 2.

Wheeler, a Democrat, sweeped the seat with slightly over 65 percent of the county’s vote compared to Libertarian Gregory Caudill with a little over 11 percent and independent candidate Scott Costello at more than 23 percent.

Wheeler began Election Day campaigning outside of Westwood Middle School, where she used to teach, before visiting other campaign spots around the county. She returned to a polling location at 7 p.m. to encourage voters to stay in line.

She celebrated her victory with fellow Democrats at Cypress and Grove Brewery. Wheeler credited Andrew Gillum for reenergizing Democrats around the state, despite his loss tonight.

Wheeler said she looks forward to focusing on protecting the environment.

“I feel like if we don’t have the leadership from the Democrats, we’re not gonna get the protections for our environment that we absolutely have to have in Florida,” she said.

Gregory Caudill paced back-and-forth with his arms crossed across his chest at Gator’s Dockside.

About 10 supporters gathered to watch the election results with him. When his loss was obvious, Caudill hugged and thanked his supporters.

“The results weren't what I hoped for, but we served the liberty movement well,” he said.

Scott Costello’s supporters were drinking and chatting even after they heard he wasn’t going to a seat in Alachua County Commission at Volcanic Sushi & Saki.

Costello stood before his family, friends and supporters to give his concession speech. He said he was thankful for his experience campaigning this past year.

After getting congratulatory hugs, Costello stepped aside to call Wheeler.

He said he wishes Wheeler the best and wants to offer any help she may need.

“I made a friend for life in the woman who beat me,” Costello said.

Gillian Sweeney, Hannah Beatty, Kyle Wood, Angela DiMichele, Alyssa Ramos, Amanda Rosa, Christina Morales, Jeana Fraser and Taylor Roth contributed to this report.