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Incumbents lead the way, vehicle ordinance stays in Madeira Beach

Voters in this small beach town opted for the status quo for the most part, voting for the incumbent in two out of three races and to keep an existing ordinance on the books.

Even in the race where the incumbent lost, voters opted for the familiar. Arnold Alloway defeated incumbent Paul O'Connor in the District 1 race, but Alloway is no newcomer to politics. He served on the commission eight years before losing to O'Connor.

Mayor Tom De Cesare and District 2 Commissioner Marvin Merrill retained their seats in relatively close races in the election Tuesday night.

Voters also retained an ordinance that limits the size of commercial vehicles, recreational vehicles and boats that can be parked in residential areas. The ordinance won the approval of 52 percent of the voters.

The ordinance was adopted by the current mayor and commission as part of a widespread effort to improve the appearance of the town. Supporters said barring the oversized vehicles keeps the city looking nice. But detractors charged the ordinance is unfair and limits civil rights.

Under pressure from detractors, the commission agreed to put the question on the ballot.

In the race for mayor, Tom De Cesare retained his seat with 51 percent of the vote to opponent Dewey Leigh's 49 percent. Leigh had served two years on the commission before deciding in 1993 not to run again. Leigh said he ran this time because residents asked him to reenter politics.

In the District 2 competition, Marvin Merrill was voted into his third term on the commission with 52 percent of the vote to opponent Gary Berkheimer's 48 percent. Berkheimer was a newcomer to politics.

The most unusual race was in District 1, where two men have traded the seat back and forth.

Arnold Alloway held the seat for eight years, then was defeated in 1990 by Paul O'Connor. Alloway tried to regain the seat in 1992, but was again defeated by O'Connor.

This time around, Alloway was successful, wresting the seat back from O'Connor with 52 percent of the vote.

O'Connor's campaign was marred by an investigation by the Florida Elections Commission into his handling of a check during the last campaign. O'Connor has asked for a hearing in the case.