James Calkins has unseated longtime County Commissioner Don Salter to win the Republican nomination for the District 3 County Commission seat in Santa Rosa County.
Calkins, who won with 36.2% of the vote, will face off against write-in candidate Patrick Brown in the Nov. 3 general election.
The District 3 race was the most crowded in this season’s election cycle in Santa Rosa County. A total of six candidates vied for the seat that has been held by Salter, an Army veteran, for the last 20 years.
Calkins was headed to Grover T’s BBQ in Milton to celebrate his big win with family and friends on Tuesday night. He told the News Journal he had one goal between now and Nov. 3, the date of the general election when he will face off against the write-in candidate to secure the seat.
“The first thing I’m going to do is work hard to get Trump elected,” he said. “That’s my No. 1 goal between now and November.”
He said if he beats the write-in candidate and takes the seat in November, he has several things he plans to do.
“I would like to work with the new commissioners to get our property tax lowered, and I would like to see if we can re-negotiate the Waste Pro deal,” he said. “I also believe that we need to work on getting everybody together to do a smart growth approach in Santa Rosa, and I believe we need to give the voice back to the citizens of Santa Rosa County.”
Finally, Calkins praised incumbent Salter and his challengers.
“I would like to thank Don Salter for his 20 years of service, and I look forward to working with him,” he said. “I’d also like to thank all the other people in the race that worked really hard, I was really proud of Jerry Couey and thought that he worked really hard and put in a lot of effort. We were one of the most positive campaigns in the Panhandle.”
Couey, who came in second place in the primary election, said he was pleased with his campaign and would continue to be a citizen watchdog for Santa Rosa County.
“One of the things I’ve always said is, you go run your race as good as you can. I am proud of the race that me and my team just completed, we ran a clean, positive campaign, an issue-oriented campaign,” he said. “I attended every event that I was asked to go to, and answered every question that was proposed to me. The citizens have now made their decision, and I hope it works out for them.”
Salter could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
District 3 encompasses the entire northern half of Santa Rosa County, including the small towns of Jay and Chumuckla and Naval Air Station Whiting Field. Farms in District 3 consistently lead the state in peanut and cotton production, and also produce large amounts of hay, soybeans and wheat. The District 3 commissioner works closely with the county extension office and with agricultural leaders across Florida.
Calkins came under fire in early June for a 25-second campaign video in which, while holding a gun, he said that looters aren’t welcome in Santa Rosa County and delivered the message: “if you loot, we’ll shoot.” No looting or acts of violence were reported in Santa Rosa County following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Calkins reported raising the most money out of any of the candidates, with $123,169 in his campaign coffers as of Aug. 13. But much of the money came from Calkins himself — he reported writing himself a $77,700 check in November 2019, and a $6,000 check in August 2020.
The changing of the gavel and the swearing in ceremony for the Santa Rosa County commissioners typically happens the third Tuesday of November, after the general election.
Annie Blanks can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8632.