Monroe County voters and those in the Lower Keys neighborhood of Key Haven on Tuesday were wildly split on releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in Key Haven in a test to see if they can reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry Zika and other viruses.
In nonbinding referendums asking the same question, countywide, 58 percent of voters favored the release with 19,848 unofficial votes while 14,163 voted against it. In Key Haven specifically, 418 voters, or 65 percent of 639 voters, voted against the release while 212 voted in favor.
The final decision on whether millions of GM mosquitoes will be released in Key Haven in spring 2017 to battle the Zika virus falls on the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board. The agenda has not yet been prepared for the board’s Nov. 19 meeting and Beth Ranson, public information officer, could not confirm whether it will be discussed.
In the past, commissioners said it would be months before an actual GM bug release if they OK it.
The new District 1 commissioner for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board is Republican Brandon Pinder. He replaces Steve Smith, a Democrat who was on the board since 1997. Pinder will serve four years.
Pinder works for developer Pritam Singh in information technology. Unofficial results show he received 57.59 percent, or 22,216 votes, while Smith received 42.41 percent, or 16,258 votes.
For District 3, incumbent Republican Jill Cranney-Gage will serve a second term. She won with 63 percent of the vote (20,647 votes) while opponents Democrat Kathryn Watkins and Oliver Kofoid of the Green Party had 39 and 8 percent of the 38,407 votes, respectively. Watkins had 14,867 votes while Kofoid had 3,002, unofficially.
Cranney-Gage works in finance for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
In District 4, Democrat Stan Zuba is the new commissioner for the open seat and he won with 13,932 out of 21,314 votes, or 54.86 percent. Realtor Janet Wood, a Republican, received 11,424 votes, or 45.14 percent. Zuba is a pediatrician who replaces longtime Commissioner Bill Shaw, who decided not to run again.
Zuba said his medical background gives him a leg up when it comes to understanding the biology of genetically modified mosquitoes.
New commissioners will be sworn in at the board’s Jan. 19 meeting.