By Wells Dusenbury
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Jun 22, 2022 at 1:58 pm

Races are beginning to heat up for the three Palm Beach County Commission seats up for grabs during this election cycle, with a pair of incumbents seeking re-election and a host of newcomers vying for the lone open seat.

And much like in Broward County, the issue of affordable housing will likely loom over the local elections after commissioners on Tuesday approved adding a $200 million bond item for affordable housing on November’s ballot.

Commissioners on the seven-person board are elected to staggered four-year terms, with officials limited to two consecutive terms. Six of the seven seats are held by Democrats, and all three races are currently filled by Democrats.

Battle to replace McKinlay

The most competitive race will be in District 6, which covers western Palm Beach county, to replace Melissa McKinlay, who is term-limited. Four candidates have officially declared for the seat: three Democrats and one Republican.

The Democratic primary may square down to a two-way battle between Michelle Oyola McGovern and state Rep. Matt Willhite.

A longtime staffer for former Sen. Bill Nelson, McGovern has tallied a significant campaign war chest, raising $236,000. She’s also garnered a strong group of local endorsements, including McKinlay, Congresswoman Lois Frankel and Congressman Ted Deutch.

Willhite, a Wellington resident who’s served in the state house since 2016 and works as a Palm Beach County Fire Rescue captain, has raised more than $100,000 and boasts endorsements from numerous state representatives and firefighter unions.

The third Democrat on the ballot, Sylvia Sharps has raised $14,000.

On the Republican side, real estate agent Sara Baxter is running unopposed and will face off against the Democratic challenger in the General Election. Baxter has raised $40,000 in this election cycle.

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