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Property appraiser’s deputy Jacks trounces County Commissioner Vana

A previous version of this story incorrectly said Dorothy Jacks would face write-in candidate Charles H. Stahman in November.

Dorothy Jacks got a resounding victory over Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana Tuesday night in the surprisingly testy race for property appraiser.

The victory moves Jacks from chief deputy property appraiser into the top job, which has been held by Gary Nikolits for 23 years. Nikolits announced last year that he would not seek re-election. He endorsed Jacks, who touted her experience in the office as the No. 1 reason voters should support her candidacy.

“I think the voters totally understood the importance of experience and qualifications in this particular race,” Jacks sad.

>UPDATE: Complete local results at

A Jacks win means a return to private employment for Vana, who has served two terms as a county commissioner and could not run for re-election to that seat. Vana had previously served in the state House before winning a seat on the county commission.

Tuesday’s results end a primary that had become sharply divisive, with Jacks and Vana ripping each other as they made their case to voters.

Jacks and Vana pledged early to keep their discussion civil, but that pledge was shredded by the intensity of the campaign.

Vana blasted Jacks as “an employee” who did not have the political leadership skills she argued are an important facet of the job.

Jacks knocked Vana as a career politician who had no experience with the property appraiser’s office. Her television ads underscored that argument and pointedly featured people from the political world — West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, Tax Collector Ann Gannon and even one of Vana’s colleagues on the commission, Paulette Burdick.

In addition to the television ads, Vana had to deal with a direct mail piece that attempted to tie her to the Republican Party’s controversial presidential nominee, celebrity mogul Donald Trump.

The flier, which said Vana attended a Trump rally, was done by a group chaired by a political consultant who worked for Jacks.

Officially, the property appraiser’s race is nonpartisan. But both Vana and Jacks are registered Democrats in a county where that party holds great sway.

Vana told voters of her long-standing ties to the Democratic Party and questioned the allegiance of Jacks, who was registered as a Republican as recently as 2010.

Neither candidate would have welcomed ties to Trump, who kicked off his presidential campaign by calling illegal immigrants from Mexico drug mules and rapists.

Ultimately, though, Vana said party politics was a factor.

The Republican Party of Palm Beach County announced its support for Jacks, and Vana said that GOP nod — and a lack of backing from her own party — contributed to her defeat.

“I’m just sorry the Democrats are so ineffectual and we circle our wagons and shoot each other,” she said.

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