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'Simple Life' host contends for commission seat

Jimmy Batten, 57, describes himself as a fiscal conservative. He is one of 10 candidates in the running for District 5.

Published March 31, 2004

BROOKSVILLE - Rancher Jimmy Batten, who recently hosted glam gals Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie as part of Fox network's filming of Simple Life 2, has filed as a Republican to run for the District 5 County Commission seat.

Batten and another Republican, Richard Avirett, who recently filed to run, bring to 10 the number of candidates vying for victory in District 5, a seat held by Betty Whitehouse until her death earlier this month. Of the candidates, eight are Republicans, one a Democrat and one a candidate with no party affiliation.

Avirett was not immediately available for comment.

Batten, 57, is a lifelong county resident and the owner of J.O. Batten farms and other agriculture-related businesses. He ran for the commission from what was District 1 eight years ago and lost in the primary.

Due to a reshuffling, District 1 is now District 5, which encompasses much of eastern Hernando County.

Batten said he has been toying with the idea of running for the past seven or eight months and described himself as a fiscal conservative who would work for the average citizen and not protect special interests.

"I am going to be a commissioner for the people and not for the government," Batten said. "The government seems to be overlooking the rights of all the individuals in Hernando County."

Batten also criticized the County Commission for praising privatization while taking Florida Water Services in Spring Hill into public ownership and for paying top employees extravagant wages.

As for his recent experience with the Simple Life 2 stars, Batten said they were really just regular folks.

"Just two young girls," Batten said. "They like to have a good time and joke around."

In the August Republican primary, Batten and Avirett will face a field that includes James E. Adkins, Janey Baldwin, Lara Bradburn, Anna Liisa Covell, Steven L. Scheibler, and former commissioner Barbara "Bobbi" Mills.

- Will Van Sant can be reached at 754-6127. Send e-mail to

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