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Elections chief Sawyer retains office

The man who ran the biggest election in Keys history Tuesday won re-election himself, beating Henry Woods to keep his job as Supervisor of Elections.

Harry Sawyer, a Republican, had 65 percent compared to 35 percent for the Democrat Woods, with early votes still to be counted in two precincts.

"I'm very proud of the campaign I ran," said Woods, speaking by phone from his home in Key West. "Our democracy's better when people have choices."

"Basically, what it just boils down to is an overwhelming support for what we've been doing," Sawyer said.

This was a contest that had a first-time candidate going up against a Conch who'd held the post for a lot of years.

Sawyer was first elected in 1988 and has run unopposed for the last 16 years. He boasts of his office's efficiency and of the accuracy of the voter roll, which his office maintains. Monroe County was one of the first in the state to have optical scan machines, and was one of the first anywhere to upload votes by modem to a central computer.

But Woods, an adjunct professor of political science (and the only political science professor) at Florida Keys Community College, said Sawyer should be doing more.

Woods, who ran five campaigns here in the Keys -- five for former Key West Mayor Jimmy Weekley, and one for County Commissioner Wilhelmina Harvey -- proposed that the Supervisor of Elections be the "chief civic educator" in the county, and hold classes instructing candidates how to wage a campaign.

His defeat might be read as a rejection of that idea. Or it might only be an indication of the limitations of a first-time candidate who isn't well known outside of Key West, where he makes his home.

Woods says he spent a lot of time in the Upper Keys, and wants to wait to analyze the totals from individual precincts before second guessing that strategy.

On his proposal for the supervisor to serve as a civic educator, Woods said: "I'll have to make a stronger case if I attempt this again."