By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000
BROOKSVILLE -- Longtime community businessman Gus Guadagnino will be in a Republican runoff with county tourism coordinator Sue Rupe after Tuesday's primary elections for Hernando County supervisor of elections, while longtime office employee Annie Williams handily defeated her opponent in the Democratic race.
Final totals showed Guadagnino led the pack of four Republican candidates but failed to get the more than 50 percent plus one vote required to avoid a runoff on Oct. 3.
On the Democrat side, Annie Williams, the assistant supervisor of elections who has worked in the office for 24 years, beat by a wide margin real estate agent Barbara Batten, the only other Democratic candidate in Tuesday's primary.
"Needless to say, this is one of the happiest days of my life," Williams said. She says her experience in the office will help her win the general election as well. "Neither one of them has elections experience," she said, referring to Guadagnino and Rupe.
Batten says she plans to continue her job as a Realtor associate for Century 21.
"I was very pleased with all the support I had and very pleased with the race we ran," Batten said.
On the Republican side, the other two Republicans who did not make it to the runoff were Jerry Theilen, general services specialist with the state Department of Corrections, and retired Ford Motor Co. executive Curtis Maynard. Tuesday's loss is the second defeat for Theilen in his quest for the office. Theilen lost the 1996 election to incumbent Ann Mau, who is retiring at the end of this term.
Guadagnino, chief executive officer of Joni Industries and a board member of numerous community associations, will face Rupe in the second primary Oct. 3. The winner of that race will face Williams in the November general election.
"If that's the way it's going to be, we'll take it on," Guadagnino said when contacted Tuesday night at his home about the runoff. He said his leadership and motivational abilities make him the best candidate with the greatest chance to get voters to the polls.
Rupe says her 25 years in county government service give her an edge.
"Beyond that, I want to be able to encourage people that their vote does make a difference," Rupe said.
Williams, Guadagnino and Rupe have identified voter education as a top priority. Williams would like more voter education programs for young students to get them involved early. Guadagnino also wants to recruit teenagers into the process to encourage future voters, and said he will not use schools as polling places.
Rupe said she hopes marketing methods she has used to attract tourists to the county will draw voters to the polls.