McGovern Wins Democratic Nod For County Commission

Michelle McGovern thanks supporters on election night.

Michelle Oyola McGovern secured the Democratic nomination for the District 6 seat on the Palm Beach County Commission during the Tuesday, Aug. 23 primary election. She will now move forward to November’s general election, where McGovern will face Republican nominee Sara Baxter.

McGovern finished well ahead of her two opponents, taking 9,926 votes (56.9 percent) to State Rep. Matt Willhite’s 5,644 votes (32.4 percent). Community activist Sylvia Sharps was third with 1,864 votes (10.7 percent).

McGovern is aiming to replace term-limited County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay representing the western communities. McKinlay endorsed McGovern in the race.

“I am really honored by the wide-spread support we were able to garner in the race,” McGovern told the Town-Crier. “It really showed in the numbers. There was a good turnout, and we really had great support across the district. I feel good about it. I’m looking forward to becoming Palm Beach County’s first Latina county commissioner.”

A Palm Beach County native of Puerto Rican heritage, McGovern worked for former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for 18 years as his state director. She now works for Baptist Health. Married to Wellington Councilman John McGovern, she is the mother of two teenage daughters.

McGovern believes that her strong showing was based on her deep roots in the community.

“I think it says a lot about my history of working in the district,” she said. “The voters felt like they can rely on me to listen and deliver on their behalf.”

Looking beyond the Democratic primary to the general election, McGovern plans to keep her focus on bread-and-butter issues.

“I think the issues are the same,” she said. “This is a very diverse district with strong family values. What we worry most about are keeping our families safe, being able to afford the homes we live in, effective transportation and clean water. I think the issues are no different than in the primary. Those are the same issues we will talk about in the general. What I plan to do is to continue to meet with constituents all over the district.”

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Baxter, the Republican nominee, is a small business owner who also works in real estate.

Baxter is a second-generation Floridian. An Acreage resident, she graduated from Palm Beach State College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Together with her husband, Baxter owns an automobile repair shop called Foreign Auto Specialists on Belvedere Road. In real estate, she works with Continental Properties.

“That has been the driving force of wanting to run,” Baxter said of her small business experience. “I feel the county needs to focus on helping small businesses start up and make the process easier for them to grow. We have commissioners with a lot of great experience, but none with this type of experience.”

Baxter said that she felt starting her business was unnecessarily difficult.

“The commissioners didn’t seem to understand how their decisions were hurting small businesses,” Baxter said. “I would like to bring a different perspective. I feel there are lot of common-sense things that get overlooked. There is another side to a story, and it is failing to be addressed up there.”

Baxter believes that the county should do more to help the people.

“I would like to focus on how we can help residents who are suffering due to inflation and high gas prices,” she said. “Residents are struggling. I want to see on a county level where we can help them best, such as addressing gas taxes and other fees. There are so many different aspects of the budget. The county has a $6 billion budget, and with a budget that large, we need to figure out how to better help residents without raising property taxes.”

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In other election news:

• Wellington voters approved two amendments to the village’s charter, both having to do with elections. Question 1, which clarified term limits for the mayor’s seat, was approved with 8,445 yes votes (84.6 percent) versus 1,534 no votes (13.4 percent). Question 2, which changed rules regarding election canvassing boards, was approved with 6,458 yes votes (67.8 percent) versus 3,068 no votes (32.2 percent).

• In the Circuit Court Judge Group 23 race, Caryn Siperstein won with 142,031 votes (64.1 percent) to defeat Alcolya St. Juste, who took 79,681 votes (35.9 percent).

• In the County Court Judge Group 9 race, incumbent Paul Damico kept the seat, taking 134,943 votes (61.7 percent) to Karen Velez’s 83,904 votes (38.3 percent).