The race to decide Pensacola’s second strong-mayor will advance to the November 6 general election, between two high-profile figures in city and county government.
Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson led the six-candidate field on Tuesday, garnering 34 percent of the vote. He and City Councilman Brian Spencer – who was second with 21 percent will meet in the runoff. The win for Robinson comes almost a year after starting his campaign.
“We’re getting back to the race that we originally got into that we thought was going to happen where we were looking to be the challenger,” said Robinson. “I think tonight’s results sort of showed what we thought all along. Over 50 percent of the people voted today for experience, and nearly 80 percent of the people voted for change.”
The biggest takeaway from Tuesday, for Robinson, was the turnout – more than 16,000 votes cast, compared to 13,000 in 2010 – the last time there was an open seat on City Hall’s seventh floor.
“In fact, the last two generals have been just over 20,000,” Robinson said. “So a lot of people showed up, it was a big turnout. I just think it shows where we’re going to be as we move forward into November.”
Robinson ran successful campaigns for County Commission in 2010 and 2014. The differences in that and the mayoral run are that the latter is a non-partisan race, and while a plurality can take a primary, you have to win a majority in the second round.
Outside of that…
“Much of it is the same; It’s communicating with people, communicating what you can do, explain to them what you have done, and your ability for you to move forward,” said Robinson. “[Voters] take a listen to what you have to say, and based on knowing you by your experience, they either support and believe you, or they support someone else who they believe.”
“My message is clear; that I’ve got a vision for the future of Pensacola. I certainly will not drop any of those priorities that supporters and the voters have heard me say,” said Brian Spencer, who entered the mayor’s race in the 11th hour. He’s hoping to maintain and build upon the momentum generated during his eight years of service on the City Council.
“Number one being, all neighborhoods need to be safe; law enforcement will be a key ingredient – that’s just a given,” said Spencer. “But after that, then the focus on economic development will be one of my priorities."
Along with his message in the ten weeks leading up to the general election, Spencer’s campaign strategy – against one opponent instead of five – will also remain basically the same as when his journey began.
“I think that my reputation preceding serving in public office is one that has provided the confidence that these voters have expressed in voting [Tuesday],” said Spencer. “There’s no reason for me to change that.”
Television executive and political newcomer David Mayo placed third at 17 percent. Rounding out the field were three other rookies – Drew Buchanan with 13 percent; Lawrence Powell at 12 percent, and Jonathan Green with four percent.