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Women sweep County Commission seats

Republican Kim Wigington and Democrat Heather Carruthers were elected to the Monroe County Commission Tuesday, filling the seats of two of the most divisive commissioners in recent history.

Republican Sylvia Murphy also was elected, as voters gave her a full four-year term.

In District 1, Wigington, who is retired, defeated Democrat Bill Estes, who manages a Big Pine Key dive shop, 59 percent to 41. In District 3, Carruthers, who owns the Pearl's Rainbow guesthouse in Key West, defeated Republican Carlos Rojas, an architect, 63 percent to 32 percent. Sloan Bashinsky received a little over 4 percent.

Key Largo resident Murphy, retired from a career in emergency services, handily beat Sal Gutierrez, a retired air-conditioning company owner who ran with no party affiliation and who really ran no campaign at all. The difference was 76 percent to 24 percent.

The percentages don't include a late Big Pine Key precinct.

The three elected commissioners will take their seats Nov. 19, when the County Commission holds its annual organizational meeting at the Key Largo library.

"I'm privileged to be a part of this," Wigington said Tuesday night. "It's a new direction and I'm really glad to be a part of it."

She said she's not sure what put her over the top with so much of the vote."I'm at a loss for words on that one. We [she and Estes] had a lot of respect for each other and I still have a lot of respect for him."

She did say that "over time, people have known what I stand for and people know what I stand for, working on the Area of Critical State Concern and all the related issues."

Carruthers was almost breathless upon hearing of her victory -- and said she worked the voters hard right up until the end.

"We ran a great campaign. I was out at 7 a.m. [Tuesday] morning at the Key Largo Baptist church and worked my way down to Key West."

She says her work with Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe, which helped lower windstorm insurance rates in the Keys, was a big part of why she won.

"I think people responded to my service to the community," she said. "I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who supported me. I will work hard to bring responsibility to the community."

Rojas was gracious in defeat. He congratulated all of the commission candidates, and said the races for the most part were models for how campaigns should be run -- on the issues without negativity.

He said, "It doesn't seem like it now but I think I have accomplished a lot" by educating voters on the issues. "I do want to continue my civic duty" and stay involved.

Wigington replaces Republican Dixie Spehar and Carruthers replaces Republican Sonny McCoy. Voters turned out McCoy and Spehar in the August primary by huge margins, sending a signal they no longer wanted their commissioners to listen more to developers than residents.

That primary broke up the Gang of Three, the voting bloc of McCoy, Spehar and Mayor Mario Di Gennaro. They almost always voted in lockstep -- and almost always favored development plans that came before them.

Murphy was initially elected in 2006 in a special election to fill the two remaining years of the term of Murray Nelson, who died in office.

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