Today in Sanford history: Kuhn wins mayor’s race

On this date in Sanford history, Linda Kuhn was elected mayor of Sanford. Art Woodruff was re-elected District 1 city commissioner. It was March 29, 2005.

Kuhn defeated former District 4 City Commissioner Herbert “Whitey” Eckstein by just 153 votes. Kuhn collected 1,826 votes, or 52% of votes cast, to Eckstein’s 1,673, or 48%.

The race was actually a run-off election since neither Kuhn nor Eckstein earned a majority of the vote in the regular March 8, 2005, city election. The results from that election were:

  • Kuhn – 1,316, 47%
  • Eckstein – 1,212, 43 %
  • Ron Fraser – 188, 6%
  • Dean Ray – 114, 4%

Dean Ray, who ran for mayor in 2001, was the perennial candidate. From 1996 to 2005, he ran for office 7 times. I always liked Dean, even though he never really had a chance, primarily because he never raised more the a few hundred dollars. While he never won an election, the publicity was great for his business, Ray’s Appliance.

The run-off between Kuhn and Eckstein was not particularly dirty, but it was not a friendly race. Kuhn can be condescending and abrasive at times, and that came across more than once during the campaign.

Eckstein wasn’t any better. He had retired from his commission duties in 2003, and during his 16-plus years, Eckstein always was the curmudgeon. During this election he was incredibly bitter, too, I think primarily because people were questioning his health.

Eckstein had battled a kidney condition for most of his life, including his time on the commission. Everybody knew that. The issue was that Eckstein announced he was running for mayor during a 6-week stay in the hospital, much of it in ICU. His health was a legitimate question, but one Eckstein resented tremendously.

Still, it was a close race. Voter turnout was horrible at about 15% of registered voters, although that was higher than the March 8 turnout. The difference, surprisingly, was District 2, where Commissioner Velma Williams threw her support to Kuhn. In fact, if not for district 2, Kuhn would have lost the race.

In both the March 8 election and the March 29 run-off, Eckstein won a slight majority in District 3 and a bigger majority in District 4, the district he had represent for 16 years.

Kuhn should have won big in District 1. She was active in the Sanford Historic Trust and was the former executive director of Main Street Sanford. But she won the downtown district by just 46 votes in the March 8 election, and just 8 votes in the run-off.

So District 2 was the difference maker. Kuhn won 70% of the vote in the district during the March 8 election, and nearly 90% in the run-off. If Kuhn had won only 60% of the vote in District 2 – a giant majority, no doubt – she would have lost the election.

Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown had a campaign slogan that said, “Corrine delivers!” On March 29, Commissioner Williams delivered for Kuhn.

The Kuhn-Eckstein race wasn’t the only election that went to a run-off. District 1 Commissioner Art Woodruff won a close race to beat community activist and funeral home director Bernard Mitchell. Woodruff received 838 votes, with Mitchell earning 769.

Woodruffr won the most votes by far in March 8 election, but with 5 candidates, he couldn’t get a majority. The results of that race were:

  • Art Woodruff – 568, 40.5%
  • Bernard Mitchell – 358, 25.5%
  • Lindsay Oyewale – 321, 23%
  • Hank Dieckhaus – 143, 10%
  • Vance Taylor – 15, 1%

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