Voters in two Palm Beach County Commission races appeared Tuesday to be ousting incumbent Priscilla Taylor and voting in state legislator Dave Kerner.
Late Tuesday, former Delray Beach city commissioner and former state representative Mack Bernard had a slim edge in the District 7 race over Taylor and two other opponents: Haverhill council member and retired paralegal and insurance adjuster Lawrence Gordon and former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Robbie Littles.
And Kerner, a 32-year-old attorney, held a big lead over 62-year-old software designer and environmental activist Drew Martin for the central Palm Beach County Commission District 3 seat Shelley Vana was leaving because of term limits.
The winners in the two races, which both were Democrat-only, do have opposition Nov. 8. The District 7 race has write-in candidate Rhonda Patton. The District 3 race has no-party candidate Sean C. Hogan, whose name will be on the ballot, and write-in candidate Engracia C. Bondonese.
“It’s going against an incumbent, and to be able to pull it out with a squeaker is great,” Bernard, an attorney, said late Tuesday.
In 2012, Bernard lost a state Senate Democratic primary to now-incumbent Jeff Clemens that included a hand-recount and two court challenges and a 17-vote margin of victory.
Taylor said late Tuesday that, should Bernard’s lead hold, she had no regrets; “I’ve given it seven good years,” she said.
Taylor had announced in 2015 she’d seek the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast seat U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, was leaving to run for U.S. Senate. But early in 2016, she dropped her bid and again sought her commission seat.
Asked if that turnaround hurt Taylor, Bernard said, “I don’t think so.” But, he said, “it opened the door for other candidates to run.” And, he said, residents “voted for a change.”
Taylor also said she didn’t know if her pivot hurt her.
“The only thing I do know is that I served the people of District 7 very well. I feel proud of what I’ve done. I wish him (Bernard) all the best,” she said.
Taylor was selected in 2009 to the minority-dominated and overwhelmingly Democratic commission District 7 and was elected outright in 2010 and 2012. Her loss ends, for now, a 17-year stretch in elected office. She previously had been a Port of Palm Beach commissioner and a state representative.
In seeking reelection, Taylor had cited her directing of county staff to study whether minorities are getting a fair shot at county projects and pushing for affordable housing, a citizen’s review board to look into law enforcement shootings, and the creation of the Youth Services Department. Opponents argued she had not done enough to help residents of the district.
In District 3, where Democrats have a 44.1-to-25.3 percent registration edge over Republicans, Kerner said Tuesday night he realized he’ll be more in the spotlight now that he’s one of seven commissioners instead of one of scores of legislators.
The former police officer elected to the state House in 2012 and returned in 2014, said, “I’m excited to be representing the county I’m born and raised in.”
He said the county commission has a reputation for placing cooperation over partisanship “and has had that cohesiveness for a long time.”
Martin did not return a call.