Johnson loses Hillsborough elections supervisor seat
TAMPA -- Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson conceded his re-election race tonight, after a day of counting early vote results showed a commanding lead by his challenger, Phyllis Busansky.
"You may not have seen the last of Buddy Johnson," he said. "I'm proud of my staff. I'm proud of the voters. Congratulations to Phyllis Busansky."
“I’m absolutely thrilled," Busansky said from her home Thursday night. "I ran on restoring confidence in this office and that’s what we’ve done.” When asked what she planned to do her first day in office, she said, "I have no idea. Until two minutes ago I wasn’t at all sure I was going to win.”
It was unclear at 6 p.m. how many more votes remained to be counted.
In other results, Democrat Kevin Beckner won his race against incumbent Republican County Commissioner Brian Blair by a sizable margin, according to the tally released Thursday evening.
Other races followed the trends established Tuesday night before vote counting was stopped because of computer problems. School Board member Carol Kurdell was beating challenger Stephen Gorham 52 percent to 47 percent. One race for Soil and Water Conservation District remained very close and appeared headed for a recount.
Vote counting resumed at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, with elections workers manually feeding paper ballots into dozens of scanners so the results could eventually be uploaded to computers for counting. Those results failed to upload on election night after problems with the new optical scan voting system by Premier Election Solutions.
All three members of the Hillsborough canvassing board said they expect some legal action against Premier Election Solutions, the vendor that sold the county its computerized vote-counting system.
"What's wrong with the system? Somebody will have to be held accountable,'' said Judge James Dominguez, a board member. "I'm sorry it took so long, but I felt that no matter how long it took, the numbers would be accurate.''
County Commissioner and canvassing board member Kevin White said of Johnson's consession, "I saw a very proud man who was dealing with the agony of defeat. He was conceding as graciously as he could, with the culmination of losing and the mishaps.''
White said he was glad the process was over. Election employees have been worked to the brink of exhaustion, and "now they have the anxiety of a new administration.''
Commissioner Rose Ferlita, the third canvassing board member, said of Johnson, "it's unfortunate he didn't elaborate more. If there were things he would have done differently, he should have said what they were.''
Michael Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer