Voters on Tuesday returned three council veterans to office in New Port Richey and Zephyrhills, and overwhelmingly elected a new City Council member in Port Richey who opposes the effort to dissolve the city.
Bill Colombo captured two-thirds of the vote to win the open council seat in Port Richey.
In New Port Richey, voters decided to keep Judy DeBella Thomas and return Ginny Miller to seats on the City Council.
Incumbent Manny Funes defeated Carl Sullivan to keep his seat on the Zephyrhills City Council. And in San Antonio, which saw its first contested election in five years, voters kept City Commissioner Tony Lister and chose newcomer Jeff Bauroth over Commissioner Sharon Madden.
Here's how the races shook out:
Political newcomer Bill Colombo swept the race against pro-dissolution candidate Amy Scott, securing the swing vote on a City Council that is divided on the issue of dissolving Port Richey.
The addition of Colombo will provide a 3-2 majority on the council against dissolution. He replaces Vice Mayor Mark Hashim, who decided not to seek re-election.
Colombo will join the council before an upcoming referendum for voters to decide whether they want to dissolve the city.
"We're very happy, and from what I understand of the margin we got, it sends a pretty clear message that there's a lot of people who love their city and want to fight for it," said Colombo, who is the director of physical plant services for a Palm Harbor retirement center.
Scott, a financial consultant who was on a committee that circulated a petition this year to dissolve the city, garnered 34 percent of the vote.
Mayor Richard Rober, who was also up for re-election, automatically regained his seat because no one challenged him.
Despite the heavy downpour Tuesday, traffic was steady at the Knights of Columbus, the city's lone precinct.
Nearly 28 percent of the city's 1,909 registered voters cast ballots in the election.
New Port Richey
The race was much closer in New Port Richey, where two incumbents and a former council member were locked in a three-way race for two seats.
Former council member Ginny Miller and incumbent Judy DeBella Thomas emerged as the top two vote-getters, each with about 34 percent of the vote. Incumbent Marilynn deChant got nearly a third of the vote, but it wasn't enough to hold onto her seat.
"I'm really looking forward to being back on City Council," said Miller, a math teacher at Gulf High School who served on the council for nine years, her most recent term ending last April. "I'm up to the challenge."
Miller couldn't point to a single issue that rallied voters, but Thomas suspects her own stance against raising property taxes resonated with voters.
"I'm just pleased with the voters who came out," said Thomas, the executive director of Greater New Port Richey Main Street who is wrapping up her first term. "It was wonderful to meet the residents who came out and shared their views."
deChant, a public relations consultant who is finishing her second term, didn't know what issue might have turned the election in favor of Miller and Thomas, but said they were both good candidates.
"I'm a little surprised (by the results) but I did what I'm supposed to do," deChant said. "I can't beat myself up."
Incumbent Manny Funes, a local Realtor and former police officer, retained his City Council seat, beating challenger Carl Sullivan with nearly 54 percent of the vote.
Funes will be joined on the council by incumbent Kenneth Compton and returning council member Lance Smith, who is taking the seat of the retiring Clyde Bracknell. Compton and Smith ran unopposed.
Supporters for Sullivan, a firefighter, gathered outside the precinct in red shirts to drum up support for their candidate until the polls closed at 7 p.m.
Funes, Compton and Smith will be sworn in at 5 p.m. Friday.