He had to fight this time, and fight he did.
Democrat Ervin Higgs won re-election to a ninth term as Monroe County's property appraiser on Tuesday, loaning his campaign $3,000 and pounding challenger Chris Sante, a Republican, all the way up through election eve with radio ads sponsored by the mysterious third-party group Citizens for a Sustainable Economy out of Sarasota.
When the votes were tallied Tuesday night, Higgs won with 61 percent of the vote to Sante's 39 percent, with early votes in two precincts still outstanding.
"I think I ran a clean race and I did everything I could do. It's just hard to beat Key West," Sante said from him home in Islamorada after the results came in.
Higgs appeared on Monroe County Channel 76 on Tuesday night, disavowing any knowledge of the group running the radio ads. He brought with him to the interview his deputy, Karl Borglum, whom he introduced to US1 Radio show host Bill Becker.
"I'm very pleased that I found someone like him," he said, in what seemed to be an indication that he would like Borglum to succeed him.
This was the first time in a long time that there was any kind of race for property appraiser in Monroe County.
In an interview with the Keynoter last month, Higgs couldn't even remember the name of his challenger from years ago, referring to him just as "some lawyer." He likely won't forget Sante.
Sante, the former mayor of Islamorada, set his sights on the property appraiser's job four years ago, saying Higgs told him he'd be retiring (though Higgs denies saying this.)
Sante has spent the past couple of years detaching himself from businesses he owns in the Keys, which include a mortgage company, a rental property company and a pest control service. He's also worked at becoming a certified property appraiser and for the past nine months devoted himself to campaigning almost full-time.
Sante claimed Higgs wasn't being aggressive enough in investigating homestead exemption fraud, and said the office needed fresh ideas.
Higgs, meanwhile, claimed Sante was too political, didn't have enough training for the job, and was not the man best suited to take over the office.