County elections overshadow schools
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
Candidates for Hernando County Commission continued to pick up financial support heading into the qualification and campaign season, with six netting a combined $21,803 in the most recent quarter.
The seven candidates for School Board have not fared as well during the same period, collecting $2,866 among them so far.
Considering that the School Board employs more people, owns more property and receives a larger portion of property taxes than county government, the disparity was startling to those seeking to lead the school district.
"It's hard to get people motivated about School Board campaigns," said School Board incumbent Robert Wiggins, who faces three opponents for his District 1 seat. "County commissioners make decisions that affect more people in their day-to-day lives. We affect their children and their property taxes."
Alan Minthorn, who is challenging District 5 School Board incumbent Sandra Nicholson, suggested that if the public realized the magnitude of the school budget in comparison to the county budget, people might pay closer attention.
Part of the problem, he suggested, is the number of residents who have no children in school. District 1 challenger Stephen Galaydick said the School Board's unwillingness to put its workshops on cable television, with regular meetings aired only twice compared to the commission's multiple repeats, further dampens interest.
It shouldn't be that way, Galaydick said. After all, he noted, businesses look to school districts to decide whether to open shop in a community, which can make or break an area's future.
District 3 incumbent John Druzbick, who has no declared opposition, said he believed residents generally are satisfied with the School Board's performance, and that translates into less interest in the politics.
"I think you see the County Commission is probably a little higher profile. They are dealing with more issues than we are, the roads and so on and so forth," Druzbick said. "Maybe their issues tend to touch a bigger majority of the people."
Druzbick reported contributions of just $266 during the past three months, all from himself and family members. In District 5, Nicholson collected $915, plus another $130 worth of in-kind donations, while Minthorn raised just $25.
District 1 challenger Irvin Homer brought in the most cash, $810, trailed by Wiggins with $550 plus $1,303 worth of in-kind donations, Galaydick with $300 in personal loans and Jim Polk with no activity.
By comparison, in County Commission District 4, where three Republicans seek to face incumbent Democrat Chris Kingsley in the general election, all but one candidate outdrew the whole lot of School Board hopefuls.
The two District 2 candidates, neither of whom appears headed toward a primary challenge, have collected a bit less, but still well beyond any individual running for School Board.
Even so, commission District 4 challenger Paul Sullivan said, the campaign itself is very quiet. Public forums and meet-and-greets have begun, he said, and people are interested in issues. For the most part, though, Sullivan observed, the focus is not yet on politics.
With one fundraiser behind him, Sullivan collected $4,330 in the past quarter for a total of $4,580. He also received $616 of in-kind donations during that period. He has spent $1,684.
Notable large contributors included two-time commission candidate Janey Baldwin, businesswoman Christine Damico, DAB Constructors owner William Bachschmidt, Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Chief Dan Chichester, dentist Brian O'Sullivan, Stucco Systems Inc., Weeki Wachee Canoe Rental and real estate agent Linda Timmerman.
Bob Kanner, another District 4 Republican candidate, has been campaigning since February and has the largest bank account, receiving $5,580 during the past quarter to total $11,860. He also took in $355 in in-kind donations during that period. He's spent $3,094 so far.
He said donations are tight because of the slowing economy, but "people are very dissatisfied ... with everything that is going on, from the Wal-Marts to the Sam's Clubs to the deficit to affordable housing."
Much of Kanner's money is coming from the medical community. He attributes that to his time spent as an emergency medical technician and instructor. Notable large contributors include Meadowood Homes (a Sullivan foe), Action Title Services, David Warman Financial Services and fellow Spring Hill Fire Rescue Commissioner Richard Martin.
The third Republican hopeful in District 4, schoolteacher Robert Schenck, said he felt well received making his first bid for office.
"It takes a while to learn how to raise money," Schenck said. "I'm just learning how to do that."
He collected $1,390 in the past quarter, mostly in increments of $30 or less. MCT American Pharmaceuticals was the only large contributor, donating $250. He has spent $624.
Kingsley posted $4,880 in contributions and loans during the quarter, bringing his total to $9,485, of which he has spent about half. Notable large contributors include Condenser Products of Brooksville, Weeki Wachee Canoe Rental, Hernando Beach resident Mike Prescott (whose wife heads Coalition for Anti-Urban Sprawl and the Environment), and William Arnold of West Coast Diagnostic and MR Center.
Kingsley held firm in his resolve not to accept money from companies that have done business with the county. He said his campaign so far involves mainly talking to people about their concerns, and he was not worried that he had spent too much money too soon.
In District 2, incumbent Democrat Nancy Robinson reported raising $3,462 in the quarter, boosting her total to $9,537. She had spent $3,991, mainly on charity donations and ads.
Robinson returned one donation to Galaxy Fireworks, which has had several code enforcement disputes with the county. Notable large contributors include TBF Partners Ltd., Hernando Gastrology, Florida Action Committee for Rural Electrification, developer IBA Development Corp. and property management firm Forest Oaks Villas Ltd.
Republican challenger Rose Rocco raised $2,161, for a total of $2,525. She has spent $1,798.
Notable large contributors include Forest Oaks Villas Ltd. and Century 21-Alliance Realty of Spring Hill.
Details on contributions for state House District 44 were not available Friday. Incumbent David Russell, a Republican, reported $4,750 in contributions, for a total of $45,800. Primary challenger William Crawford collected $2,510.
Democratic hopeful Greg Williams had received $21,745 in the quarter, bringing his total to $22,345. Democratic challenger Bruce Donovan showed no contributions, as did Libertarian Edward Pittman.
-- Jeffrey S. Solochek covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to email@example.com.
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