BROOKSVILLE — At a victory party Tuesday night, Republican Jeff Holcomb waited with other candidates to hear how he had fared against Laurie Pizzo, who was also seeking a shot at the District 4 seat on the Hernando County Commission.
Holcomb watched vote totals trickle in and witnessed the celebration as a School Board candidate became the clear victor and another made it through to a November runoff.
His race, however, was too close to call.
By the time — after 11 p.m. — it was known that he had bested Pizzo by fewer than 100 votes, most of the people had left the party.
Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson on Wednesday sent a letter of apology to candidates for the slowness of the returns. She said her website crashed as the polls closed, so she began posting results to social media.
Ultimately, Holcomb, 43, had earned the chance to take on Democrat Dan Oliver and no-party candidate H. David Werder on Nov. 4.
On Wednesday, he said it had been a bit of a roller-coaster ride.
"There's a sense of excitedness and also being tired (and) wrapped up in it, too,'' said Holcomb, a software consultant who focused his campaign on being the more conservative choice for Republicans. "Now we're headed into more uncharted territory.''
Holcomb said his opponent "was a really tough candidate'' with all of her local contacts and political experience and he felt "shocked and blessed'' to have won the primary victory.
In moving to the next phase of the campaign, Holcomb said he's aware that his Democratic opponent is well known.
"Obviously, we've got another tough vote. But if we can get out the vote, we feel really good about the situation,'' he said.
Pizzo, a 47-year-old Realtor, said she doesn't regret running for the commission seat and does not intend to seek a recount. Instead, she said Republicans need to come together to support Holcomb in the general election.
"We ran a positive, clean campaign, and I'm so proud of that,'' she said.
As for what went wrong, Pizzo said, "I've been at this for a very long time. We did everything we could from grass roots knocking on doors to fliers. … We did everything. What I think happened was low voter turnout.''
She got emotional as she talked about the hard work her supporters put into her campaign.
"I met some of the most fantastic people, incredible people supporting me,'' she said. "I get tears in my eyes because they put their hearts and their souls into this.''