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Hendry County election candidates react to results from the polls

HENDRY COUNTY — Shortly after the conclusion of the election, candidates were bombarded with encouragements and congratulations from their diehard supporters. Phone lines were tied up, reaching relatives and informing them of the outcome.

Win or lose, each candidate was filled with emotion, each taking something different from the experience.

The Sheriff's race featured Mark Chamberlain as the overall winner for the Republican party with 56.74 percent of votes in his favor and Steve Whidden with 66.41 percent of votes.

"I feel wonderful. I believe we ran a very clean campaign," said an excited Mark Chamberlain. "My opponents were both gentlemen and it has been a great experience for me and my family. But I really think it boiled down to experience. None of the other candidates had the nonstop 26 years of experience that I have."

His opponent in November, incumbent Sheriff Steve Whidden, also scored a victory on Tuesday.

"First off, I want to thank all the voters for their support. I think the results shows, one, that the community is proud of their law enforcement and two, that Hendry County is ready for stability in the office of sheriff. That we are bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community," said incumbent Steve Whidden.

Some of the candidates who are out of the race seemed to indicate their renewed focus on just getting back to their daily lives.

"It's over and done, I'm fine. Regardless, I want to thank all of my supporters and I hope that Mark Chamberlain wins it all," said sheriff candidate Matt Beatty. When pressed to explain his support, he answered, "There are still issues in the Hendry County sheriff's office."

Asked if he would entertain the thought of another run for sheriff, Mr. Beatty said, "No comment at this time."

Another highly anticipated race was the Superintendent of Schools in which Paul Puletti will now face off incumbent Rick Murphy in the General Election.

"I'm amazed. I still can't believe how responsive the people of Hendry County were, particularly in Clewiston. I never dreamed that it would turn out like this. I will continue to maintain my focus on issues related to the schools such as teacher morale and student achievement, looking at the learning gap, and dealing with these issues," said Puletti.

In a landslide win for Brenda Hoots, Democrat, in the Supervision of Election race, opponent Kim Harris-White admits that it went as she expected.

"I wasn't positive [that I would win], but I felt good about it," said a frank Harris-White. "But there was always doubt."

Hoots was already looking forward to the next election.

"I feel happy I won the primary, now I have to go out and do it again. I'm relieved, but I know it's not over just yet," said Hoots.

Hoots will continue on to compete against Kevin Drummond, Republican, and Rose Raulerson-Mason, Nonpartisan in the November 6 general election.
Long time incumbent Janet Taylor adds another win to her political career as the 2012 County Commissioner for District #1.

"I feel great, well you always feel good when you win. This election was in God's hands. It's about who God wants to serve his people. Now I'm going to work on getting President Obama reelected," said Taylor.

And finally the race for school board, which involved its share of confusion after the results were announced. The original information given by the Hendry County Supervisior of Elections Office was that whoever won the most votes in the primary election did not have to continue on to the general election -- they would be the holder of the school board seat. However, after clarification from the State Elections Office, according to one candidate, it was discovered that in order for that to happen a candidate must have the majority of the votes.

Majority is defined as 50 percent of votes plus one additional vote. John Perry did not receive the majority, although he received 47.93 percent of votes.

"I am thrilled and elated that the people of Hendry County elected me the top vote getter and I am looking forward to the general election. I am glad to have gotten the support that I did. I am going to work hard for this election and I am working hard to get this seat," said Perry.

Stephanie Busin, Perry's opponent, had an eventful night, learning that she had officially lost her chance for the school board seat only to be called thirty minutes later to be told she was back in the race.

"I am one of those that believes that if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. I was just really calm in the storm. I was surprisingly calm. I was just picking up signs when I was being inundated with calls. But I am very excited and very encouraged. This is my rookie attempt at something of this nature and to get a showing like that... I am grateful for the opportunity and am ready to move forward."

This election has a lot of meaning for Busin. She believes it is an opportunity to get on the right track to better her children's education.

"For me and my kids, we don't have another choice. Public school is his [son Anthony who has disabilities] option. This has GOT to work for us. And we are not the only ones. I am going to work for these kids. It's not just an east side of the county against the west side of Hendry County. We are Hendry County against the rest of the world. We lack in community and parent involvement and I believe in leading by example to make it right."</