© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 2002
There wasn't much middle ground for the candidates on Hernando County's primary election ballot Tuesday.
You either cruised or were bruised. Just ask these folks:
CRUISED: Congressional candidate Ginny Brown-Waite, who put the hurt on Don Gessner, her opponent in the Republican primary. Brown-Waite of Brooksville won by 15 percentage points in the sprawling eight-county 5th District, and by more than a 2-1 ratio in Hernando County. Gessner couldn't even carry his home county, Citrus, or Lake County, where he expended considerable resources to capture core Republicans. He did however, take one county: Levy, where he won by 85 votes -- out of 599 cast.
BRUISED: Spring Hill's Steve Mattingly, who sought the Democratic nomination for state Senate District 11. Although Mattingly carried the day in Hernando County and made a good showing in Citrus County, he fell well short of the mark in Pasco and Pinellas counties. His opponent and the victor is former Pasco County Sheriff Lee Cannon, who has earned the privilege of running against the heavy favorite, Republican Mike Fasano.
CRUISED: School Board member Sandra Nicholson, who took challenger Alan Minthorn to the woodshed in the District 5 contest. Nicholson posted a double-digit win over schoolteacher Minthorn, who pulled in only 37 percent of the votes. Voters seemed not to care that Nicholson was part of the School Board that spent the better part of year not knowing if the district finances were millions of dollars in deficit.
BRUISED: Sharing black eyes are District 4 County Commission candidates Robert Kanner and Paul Sullivan, who lost the Republican primary to Robert Schenck III, who rose to the top during his first foray into politics. The voters' decision must have been a severe blow to both men because each was relying on name recognition and previous experience as elected officials to create a two-way race.
The only one happier than Schenck about this victory may be Commissioner Chris Kingsley, the Democrat whom Schenck will face in November. Although he certainly shouldn't take Schenck's candidacy for granted, Kingsley must be relieved not to have to face Sullivan or Kanner, both of whom are better known, organized and funded.
CRUISED: School Board member Robert Wiggins, who surprised many, including me, by pulling away from the four-man field in the District 1 nonpartisan race. He bested second-place finisher Steve Galaydick by more than 10 percentage points, and more than 15 points over Irvin Homer and James L. Polk.
Like Nicholson's, incumbent Wiggins' convincing win indicates voters are not too concerned about the once-uncertain financial health of the district. Voters -- at least the registered Republicans and Democrats who voted Tuesday -- also don't care that Wiggins sends his children to a private church school. In fact, his opponents' attacks on that front may have backfired. Every time Wiggins rebutted their finger-pointing, he took the opportunity to proclaim his "Christian principles" and "conservative beliefs." That information may have made all the difference in this race.
Wiggins and Galaydick now enter a runoff that will be decided in the Nov. 5 general election. Count on this to be one of the most contentious local races of the year because it's a rerun of the 1998 election, when Wiggins unseated Galaydick. Also expect it will be an uphill battle for Wiggins because he'll need to sway the vote of the approximately 10,000 people who voted for Polk and Homer.
BRUISED: There wasn't much good news for Bruce Donovan, who battled Gregory Williams for the Democratic nomination in state House of Representatives District 44. Williams topped Donovan across the board, except in Pasco County, where Donovan won. That's the good news for Donovan; the bad news is that he won by only 13 votes out of 149 cast in the four Pasco County precincts.
-- Only 6 percent of the ballots cast Tuesday were by voters who have no party affiliation. Hats off to those hard-core folks who, even though they could vote only for candidates running for School Board and judge, never pass up the chance to cast a ballot. Sadly, that means 94 percent of registered voters who have no party affiliation -- about 17,000 people -- squandered their opportunity.
-- Slightly more Democrats voted than Republicans in Hernando County. Interest in the gubernatorial primary is likely responsible for that.
-- Hernando's voter turnout Tuesday of 26.5 percent was higher than the presidential primary election in 2000, and above the state average this year.
-- Mike Fasano won the Republican nomination for state Senate District 11, which hugs the coastline from northern Pinellas County up to Yankeetown. He had no opposition because Janet Henderson withdrew from the race a month ago, but too late for her name to be removed from the ballot. Henderson's noncandidacy didn't stop 2,092 Hernando County people from voting for her.
Finally, some people are very disappointed today because they did not succeed in their goal of winning election to public office Tuesday.
They should hold their heads up. They may have lost, but that doesn't make them losers. The unsuccessful candidates won the respect of many people in the community just for entering the race.
Offering yourself for public service is a sacrifice and a very humbling experience. There is victory in merely enduring it, and the unsuccessful candidates should take solace in that.