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Primaries over, now fun begins

COUNTY RACES: Incumbents and challengers in all areas of the ballot say they offer strong platforms and expect to get the word out to the electorate.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 15, 2002

Several well-known candidates who faced no opposition in last week's primary now enter the fray for what promises to be a heated Hernando County election season.

Incumbent Democratic county commissioners Nancy Robinson and Chris Kingsley plan to rev up their campaigns against Republican challengers Rose Rocco and Robert Schenck. Only Schenck had a primary among the four.

Incumbent state Rep. David Russell, R-Brooksville, said he also is ready to roll after waiting for the Democrats to select his opponent in House District 44. For the second time, he will face hopeful Gregory Williams of Ridge Manor, who handily beat Bruce Donovan in the primary.

Another highlight of the Nov. 5 election will be a repeat matchup of current School Board member Robert Wiggins and the man he replaced four years ago, Stephen Galaydick. Neither won a majority in the nonpartisan primary, so they head to the general election.

For the most part, the candidates plan to run on their records and future plans. Negative campaigning has not fared well lately in Hernando County, as Wiggins observed.

But none ruled out talking about their opponents' records, too, if only to differentiate themselves.

In the state House race, Russell said his campaign will tout his successes as a lawmaker. He mentioned his role in passing legislation on growth management, school concurrency and transportation as examples.

"I'm going to fight hard to get my message out, and I am not going to stand idly by when somebody besmirches my legislative accomplishments, which seems to be the intent of my opponent," Russell said. "I will not stand for it, and it will not go unchallenged."

Williams said he will look at Russell's votes and illuminate those he disagrees with. However, he said, the campaign will center on his own legislative plan.

Issues include increased education spending, a cap on malpractice insurance costs, and a statewide medical insurance plan for all employees in the state retirement system.

"We're going to be focusing pretty much on the things that I want to do," Williams said.

Though running separate races, Kingsley and Robinson stressed the importance of stability on the County Commission as Hernando County grows.

Robinson highlighted her participation in state water resource negotiations since 1994, and her hand in growth management planning and the effort to get state money for the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project.

"I'm focusing on what we've achieved so far and listening to the people for what their concerns are," Robinson said.

Kingsley said current matters are "relatively complex" and added, "It's important to have someone in there who knows what is going on."

Change for the sake of change, he said, is not necessarily a good thing.

Still, Kingsley observed, the differences between himself and Schenck are "huge," and "people will have the opportunity to decide."

Newcomer Schenck, who beat two better-known opponents in the Republican primary, said he will not attack Kingsley, but rather hone his message of establishing a more responsive, accessible commission. He expected his door-to-door campaign to change little.

Rocco also said she intends to meet and greet, "because the votes are what counts." She indicated she will cast the commission negatively, though, and offer herself as a better alternative.

She argued that the current commission has adopted too many ordinances without thinking them through, and said the county's growth management efforts could be improved.

"(Robinson) hasn't shown me that what she's doing is as effective as it could be," Rocco said. "I take a proactive approach. The board has been reacting to problems after they surface."

Perhaps the most spirited and nasty race will be for School Board.

Galaydick deemed the faceoff as a battle for the board's swing vote. He said Wiggins sides with management, and he is more attuned to students and staff. He also pegged Wiggins as a creature of the Christian Coalition.

"It's what you can do for the children of this community, and he's fallen rather short," Galaydick said. "We're nothing alike. I have ideas. I have a long history in education with children in the district. He has none of that."

Wiggins said he would try to remain positive in his campaign, emphasizing the board's successes and his vision for the future.

"What I've done (campaigning) seems to be working. I'm just going to do more of it," he said, noting his first-place primary finish despite negative publicity. "I'm not going to attack him. But I might address the reputation he had before on the board, his abrasive behavior. And I'll defend myself."

Other local races include one contested Brooksville City Council seat; Senate District 11, covering western Hernando; and House District 43, which includes eight precincts in the northwest part of the county.

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