Politics & Government

Luck of the draw makes William Shearon mayor of Bradenton Beach

Breaking the tie in Bradenton Beach mayoral race

Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett shuffles cards before letting Jack Clarke and William Shearon take turns drawing cards Wednesday afternoon. The moment broke the tie between the mayoral
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Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett shuffles cards before letting Jack Clarke and William Shearon take turns drawing cards Wednesday afternoon. The moment broke the tie between the mayoral

MANATEE -- William Shearon was named mayor of Bradenton Beach once again Wednesday after he drew an ace of clubs in an unusual tie-breaker that marked Manatee County history.

Mayor Jack Clarke, who sat across from Shearon in the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office, drew a 10 of clubs. The tense moment came after a machine recount and a manual recount confirmed the 195-195 result from Tuesday night.

Before opening a fresh deck of cards and shuffling them, county Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett laid out the rules to both men as others looked on from the other side of a wall cut-out. Clarke cut the cards first, and then Bennett reshuffled the cards before Shearon took his turn.

According to Bennett, this was the first time in at least 20

years that an election ended this way in Manatee County.

"First of all, it's significant in Manatee County for people to understand -- if nothing else, everybody should understand how important their vote is," Bennett said. "Too many times, people say, 'Well, my vote doesn't matter.' We proved their vote mattered. They did it for themselves."

A little more than half of Bradenton Beach's 758 registered voters cast ballots in the mayoral election.

After winning the tie-breaker, Shearon addressed a crowd of reporters.

"It feels wonderful," the 68-year-old said. "I'm glad that the turmoil is over and the questions are over."

Shearon is a former mayor of Bradenton Beach, who was removed from office and succeeded by Clarke after a recall election on May 19. The special election closed a tumultuous chapter begun in late 2014 when a petition committee to recall Shearon was formed.

Before Tuesday's election, tensions had seeped into the campaigns of both Clarke and Shearon.

In his own campaign letter, Clarke described Shearon's campaign as a "shopping list of half-truths, exaggerations and misrepresentations, inaccuracies and outright lies, personal attacks."

In Shearon's campaign letter, he accused Clarke of stifling open discussion by officials during city commission meetings and stopping a citizens' initiative to enact a city moratorium on construction of oversized rental housing.

"I'm very confident now and a whole burden's been lifted off of my shoulders, as well as Jack's shoulders and as well as the commissioners' shoulders," Shearon said. "This was not an easy thing for any of us and, as Mike Bennett stated, we made history in Manatee County. ... Not a good way to make history, but we did make history."

Standing beside his guide dog Reese, Shearon said the first thing he'd like to do as mayor is bring a building moratorium forward to the city commission.

Clarke's only message for Shearon was that he hoped the mayor will continue the programs he's begun.

"I would have preferred to continue as mayor, but we complied with all the laws," the 71-year-old said. "The election was over yesterday and we move on."

Asked if he would still want to be involved in politics, Clarke said he has "no plans at this point."

Tjet Martin, Shearon's longtime girlfriend, sat beside Shearon during the recount.

At one point, both Clarke and Shearon rested their chins on their hands, waiting for the ballots to be recounted. The time was spent mostly in silence, with short moments of chatter and some laughter.

Clarke's wife, Karen Clarke, sat in the audience. She stared ahead, wringing her hands. After the tie was broken, Martin said she was glad the "turmoil" was over.

"I can get back to doing what I like to do, instead of having upheaval in our lives," Martin said. "I think it's a good thing."

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