Ponte Vedra Emerges as a Political Power

Article excerpt

********** CORRECTION (9/4/98)

A graphic on Page A-1 yesterday about the St. Johns County

Commission race should have stated the figures applied only to

votes cast in the District 2 race.

**********

The Ponte Vedra area came into its own Tuesday as a countywide

political power, and two St. Johns County commissioners felt its

force.

County Commission Chairman Moses A. Floyd was tossed from

office in his primary race. Two challengers, John Reardon and

Ron Sanchez, were chosen to vie for Floyd's seat in an Oct. 1

runoff election.

It was the first election under a new system. From now on,

candidates are elected by voters countywide -- not just by the

voters living in their district.

"Ponte Vedra actually decided the outcome of this race," Floyd

said yesterday. Floyd won only 20 percent of the Ponte Vedra

area vote, while challenger Sanchez had the strongest showing

there at 37 percent.

The other incumbent in Tuesday's primary, Commissioner David

Bruner of St. Augustine, trailed Ponte Vedra Beach resident Mary

Kohnke in the race for the District 4 seat, which includes Ponte

Vedra.

The primary results could signal a long-range shift in power in

St. Johns County, as the northern part of the county develops

faster -- and its generally affluent residents turn out to vote

in higher numbers -- than the traditional political power base

around St. Augustine.

Floyd said he is concerned about wealthy Ponte Vedra residents

deciding county policies for his constituents -- poorer

Hastings, Lincolnville and Elkton residents -- because people

from the two areas have "nothing close to being in common, other

than being human beings."

In District 4, Bruner has to face the upstart Kohnke in an Oct.

1 runoff. Bruner could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Kohnke and Sanchez both said residents in Ponte Vedra and

countywide are signaling unhappiness with the incumbents'

performance.

A Times-Union analysis showed Bruner led with votes in every

one of the county's five districts except District 4, where he

drew only 16 percent of the vote. Kohnke led in absentee votes.

Kohnke noted she and other challengers have criticized Floyd

and Bruner heavily for receiving a large campaign war chest from

developers, and for what they feel are inadequate growth

management policies.

Candidates also have been speaking out against staff cuts and

the firing of former county administrator Nicholas Meiszer, as

well as the selection of a replacement who was not on a citizen

committee's list of choices. Sanchez was on the committee.

"People don't forget that," Kohnke said of the Meiszer and

staff issues. …