Two Supporters of Wellington’s Horse Show Easy Victors in Local Government Election

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Anne Gerwig and Howard Coates (back right) were re-elected overwhelmingly to Wellington government council.
Anne Gerwig and Howard Coates (back right) were re-elected overwhelmingly to Wellington government council.

WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 12, 2014–Two Village of Wellington council members who strongly supported the Global Dressage and Winter Equestrian Festivals won re-election Tuesday to deliver a stinging defeat to powerful monied and political opponents.

Council members Anne Gerwig and Howard Coates, the vice mayor, overcame a late infusion of $100,000–including $52,000 from the Florida Democratic Party–aimed at taking complete control of the government of the community of about 55,000 residents that is home to the world’s largest and longest running winter circuit of international dressage and jumping.

The results were decisive–Anne Gerwig won with 62.67 per cent of the vote over Sharon Lascola with 37.33 per cent while Howard K. Coates, Jr. won with 56.86 per cent over Matt Kurit with 43.14 per cent, according to official complete but still to be certified results.

The two had fought against the other three members of the council who took control of the government two years ago with unprecedented financial backing from a single family that has waged a decade-long campaign against the organizers of the horse shows and has sought to stop development of the newly created dressage show grounds that hosts seven CDIs and offers more than $600,000 in prize money.

Although Wellington village elections are explicitly non-partisan, campaign reports showd that the Florida Democratic Party gave direct contributions of $27,500 to Kurit and $30,000 to Lascola, most donated in the final week of the campaign.

The direct donations were in addition to an unknown amount the state party spent on mailers and volunteers to support their two candidates.

The political party funding was offset by contributions from local businesses and individuals, including many wealthy equestrians who donated about $45,700 to the Howard Coates campaign and about $57,000 at Anne Gerwig. Less than one percent came from political interests.