BROOKSVILLE — After only two years away, Joe Johnston III appeared to narrowly reclaim a seat on the Brooksville City Council.
Johnston, who served 12 years on the council before term limits forced him out in 2006, held a slim 34-vote lead Tuesday night over incumbent Vice Mayor Frankie Burnett for the Group 3 council seat. Jason Sharp trailed both Johnston and Burnett. The vote totals included all precincts, plus early votes and absentee ballots, but not provisional ballots and touch screen votes.
"It feels good, if I actually won," said Johnston, who went out for a night of bowling after early returns showed him behind Burnett. "I've heard and seen conflicting things. If it turns out that I won, then I'm going to do my best to work with the council."
In the Group 2 race, Mayor David Pugh won easily over Brooksville Housing Authority board member Yvette Taylor and businessman Cecil D. Davis IV, who unsuccessfully ran against Lara Bradburn for the Group 4 seat in 2006.
Pugh had more than 58 percent of the vote, while Taylor had nearly 23 percent and Davis captured about 19 percent. "It gives some validation for everything we've done in the past two to four years," Pugh said. "I'm very thankful. It's very humbling."
The five-member council will now include Pugh, Johnston and three others who weren't up for re-election: Joe Bernardini, Bradburn and Richard Lewis, who actually donated $50 to Davis' campaign in February.
The Group 3 race figured to be the tighter of the two races, given the political pedigree and name recognition of the candidates. Either Johnston or Burnett has had his name on Brooksville ballots dating back to 1994.
The political re-emergence of Johnston, 56, came as something of a surprise. He was the final candidate to qualify by the Aug. 29 deadline for the election, choosing to challenge Burnett instead of Mayor David Pugh and the two other candidates in Group 2.
Johnston said several residents approached him about making another run at the council, and challenging Burnett seemed a safer bet than going against Pugh, with whom he shares a base of support.
"We do share a lot of the same supporters," Pugh said. "But (Johnston) had a very close race. It could have gone either way."
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.