With the usual low voter turnout for a midterm primary -- about 20.6 percent in Manatee County -- electors spoke convincingly in several contests but stood divided in a couple of others.
The three Manatee County School Board matches showcased both points.
Incumbent Karen Carpenter bested challenger and former board member Frank Brunner handily with 57 percent of the vote for the District 4 position. In victory, her analysis of the total holds some truth: "It's an approval for the new leadership team here."
But one-term incumbent and current board chair Julie Aranibar faces a November runoff against former Manatee Technical Institute director Mary Cantrell since neither won a majority of the votes in this four-way race in District 5.
That clouds the idea that voters fully approve of the district's direction, despite the fact that the administration engineered a remarkable recovery from financial disaster and budget deficits.
At Tuesday's board meeting, the first of the new school year and odd timing on primary night, the public got confirmation that the ending fund balance for the 2013-2014 fiscal year reached $14.4 million -- a $28 million turnaround in just one year.
But Cantrell's strong reputation from her many years at MTI could account for the narrow margin between the two, not district leadership. Aranibar garnered 38 percent of the electorate to Cantrell's 37.2 percent.
In the other school board contest, Charlie Kennedy defeated Rodney Jones for the right to succeed Barbara Harvey for the District 2 seat.
Kennedy, a Manatee High School social studies teacher who will have to resign that position, won with 50.5 percent. He campaigned on his classroom experience as valuable to district leadership, and that must have connected with voters.
Jones offered impressive credentials with his volunteer service on a number of key district committees and other work with schools and education efforts. That did not sway voters, but Kennedy acknowledged that fact on election night by vowing to work with Jones in the future "because he's very heavily involved with the schools."
Jones took 39 percent of the vote, which shows a rather large and puzzling undervote. Some 10 percent of people casting ballots did not select either candidate, suggesting a lack of familiarity about both.
Here again, that split emerged.
First-term incumbent Robin DiSabatino easily bested one of her 2010 opponents, Tim Norwood, by a margin of 61.5 percent to 32.4 percent.
This partisan contest between two Republicans turned into an open primary when nobody else filed for the South County District 4 seat. Thus, DiSabatino skips a November vote and wins re-election.
Her large margin of victory reflects her many connections with community associations and neighborhood organizations and her commitment to the same platform she espoused four years ago.
The District 2 commission contest came with a polar opposite result. The razor-thin difference between Palmetto city commissioner and challenger Charles Smith and incumbent and lawyer Michael Gallen forces a recount, set for Thursday. Current totals in this Democratic primary show Smith edges Gallen by a mere five votes -- 1,029 to 1,024, or 34.37 percent to 34.2 percent.
The third candidates, Corie Holmes, took 884 votes, or 29.5 percent.
Smith overcame Gallen's deeper campaign bank account -- $36,300 to $7,800 -- with a boots-on-the-ground strategy that appears to have paid off.
Because this was a partisan race with only Democrats casting ballots because there's a November write-in challenger, Troy Thomas, there will be no runoff. Whoever wins the recount -- and some provisional ballots remain to be surveyed -- moves on to face Thomas.
Kudos to all the candidates for seeking public office and service, no small commitment and often a difficult task.