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    Across region, primary provides no surprises

    By COLLINS CONNER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000


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    Complete election coverage is one click away

    In Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, Tuesday's election came with lots of rain and no surprises.

    Outgoing Pasco County Commissioner David "Hap" Clark may as well grab his fishing pole.

    His bitter campaign to unseat Pasco Tax Collector Mike Olson failed dramatically. Clark had accused his longtime friend and political mentor of using his tax-funded office to direct Democratic politics and of sexually harassing his employees. And he had the support of some Republican heavyweights.

    But in a race open to both Democrats and Republicans, Olson collected more than three-quarters of the votes.

    Hernando voters sent this message to three county commissioners: Experience doesn't count.

    The past four years generated plenty of contentious commission meetings. So voters jettisoned incumbent Bobbi Mills and left Commissioners Paul Sullivan and Pat Novy dangling.

    Mills was criticized during the campaign for micromanaging, Novy for polarizing the commission and Sullivan for alienating Hernando Beach fishermen.

    The District 5 runoff will be a heated race between Sullivan and William Alonzo Merritt, with the winner facing Democrat Mary Coyne Aiken in November.

    Novy and Mary E. "Betty" Whitehouse will be on the October ballot; the winner there will face Republican Martha Jane "Janey" Baldwin in November for the District 1 seat.

    Republican Carey Carlson, who beat Mills on Tuesday in the District 3 race, will face Democrat Diane Rowden in the general election.

    And, in Citrus County, incumbent school Superintendent Pete Kelly, who has been buffeted by criticism during his first term in office, survived a challenge from Republican Tom Mullins. In the general election he'll be up against Democrat Dave Hickey, his onetime righthand man, and Ansel Briggs, a non-party candidate.

    Those were the North Suncoast races with the most noise and heat.

    But they weren't the only significant contests:

    Former Pasco Sheriff Jim Gillum was trounced in his effort to regain his post. That left Republican Gil Thivener, who is making his third try for office, facing newcomer Bob White in an October runoff. October's survivor will go up against incumbent Lee Cannon in November.

    In the race for Hernando County sheriff, Republican Richard "Rich" Nugent, who easily won his primary race, will face Democrat James E. "Eddie" McConnell, who easily won his primary race. Also on November's ticket will be non-party candidate Michael Robinson.

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