For more than a decade, Republicans have held all five seats on the Sarasota County Commission.
That’s not going to change.
Unlike previous elections, the county implemented district voting this year that limited voters to casting ballots only for the two candidates running in the districts in which they live. This cycle, Districts 5, 3, and 1 were up for election.
District voting apparently did not impede the Republican candidates.
Three Democrats qualified to run for the three seats up for this election cycle — which is unusual in itself — the three Republicans were able to fend off the challengers.
The Englewood Republican, Rod Cutsinger, faced off against North Port Democrat Alice White for the Sarasota County Commission District 5 seat.
With all of the precincts counted, Cutsinger won with 61.05% of the ballots cast, 37,074 votes. Democratic challenger Alice White saw 36.9% of the ballots cast, 21,683 votes.
District 5 includes Englewood, most of North Port and a portion of Venice.
“First, I feel relief; this is my first foray into politics,” Cutsinger said. “I feel very humble and thankful.”
Cutsinger owned and operated Ron’s Restaurant in Englewood, with his wife Alison, who is a librarian in Englewood. After selling the restaurant, he earned a ministerial degree and then started Suncoast Christian School, now Venice Christian School.
He went onto financial consulting with his own business, Waypoint Wealth Management.
Cutsinger built a record of community service, serving on the Sarasota County Library Advisory Board, the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and the Legacy Trail Expansion.
Cutsinger has been serving on the advisory County Planning Commission, most recently as its chair before stepping down to run for a county commission seat. Commissioner Charles Hines termed out as the District 5 commissioner.
White, a North Port resident and retired teacher, has been a community activist in North Port and is known for helping to found the nonprofit People for Trees, which began as six people meeting in the North Port library in 1997 and grew to more than 300 members.
Sarasota County Commissioner Nancy Detert will be serving a second term as the District 3 county commissioner.
With all precincts counted, Detert won 63.1% of the ballots cast, 37,074 votes, while her opponent, North Port Democrat Cory Hutchinson, garnered 36.9% of the ballots cast, or 21,683 votes.
“It feels wonderful to win my final election,” the 76-year-old Detert said, commending both her fellow commissioners and County Administrator Jonathan Lewis.
Since this will be the final elected position she will seek, Detert said she feels like she’s “free of the politics” and can support what she loves, like affordable housing solutions.
Detert is no stranger to elected office. She first served on the Sarasota County School Board, but failed in her bid for second term. She then devoted herself to the business she had started, Osprey Mortgage.
Detert was approached by longtime Sarasota attorney Lamar Matthews who suggested she run for a Florida House seat that was going to be vacant. She did and viewed it as an opportunity to allocate money for schools on the state level.
Detert won, and won again, until term limits forced her out. She then ran for a vacant Florida Senate seat and won that too, serving two terms. She served 16 years in Tallahassee before making her bid for a commission seat.
Detert first decided to run for the County Commission in 2016 when outgoing Commissioner Christine Robinson encouraged her to run.
While she ran unopposed for her first term, she faced Hutchinson Tuesday.
Hutchinson — a 23-year-old college and career adviser at Laurel Nokomis School and the president of Holly’s Hope of North Port Inc., a nonprofit that promotes mental health services — doesn’t shy away from political challenges.
He lost a runoff bid for a North Port City Commission seat in 2016 but garnered more than 40% of the vote and was as the youngest candidate to run for a North Port City Commission seat.
In northern Sarasota County, Republican Michael Moran retained his District 1 commission seat that includes the city of Sarasota, Newtown voters and other North County precincts.
He saw strong support in what turned out to be the tightest commission seat race.
With 100% of the precincts counted, Moran gained 55.96% of the ballots cast, 29,327 votes. His Democratic opponent Mark Pienkos garnered 44.04% ballots cast, 23,078 votes.