By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
BROOKSVILLE -- In the end, more than two decades of experience trumped a newcomer in the race for Hernando County supervisor of elections, providing Hernando with the first African-American to win countywide office.
Democrat Annie Williams, the assistant elections supervisor, beat Republican candidate Gus Guadagnino, a Spring Hill businessman, by a wide margin.
Williams, 44, who has worked in the office for 24 of the past 27 years, will replace her boss, Ann Mau, who is retiring.
During the campaign, Williams emphasized her familiarity with elections laws and experience in the office, where she started as a clerk and worked her way up to her current position.
Her familiar face in the office counteracted the prominent name of 46-year-old Guadagnino, who has two businesses at the Hernando County Airport's Industrial Park and belongs to numerous organizations.
Williams' standing also overcame Guadagnino's dollars raised in the campaign, which outnumbered hers more than 3-to-1.
"I'm just speechless, and I just thank God," Williams said by phone from the hallway of the elections office, where she peered through the windows for results alongside other candidates.
Williams said she thinks the deciding factor in the race was her experience.
"I have helped numerous people over the years, and people remember that," she said.
Regarding the historic moment of her becoming the county's first African-American to hold countywide office, Williams said it's long overdue.
"It does show we are changing, and it's a good change," she said.
Guadagnino, who awaited results with family members and friends at the Best Western at Weeki Wachee, said he was beat by the very thing he hoped to combat: low voter turnout.
Democrats turned out strong for the national election and "went down the ticket," he said. "I did what I could and had people support me as best they could, but it wasn't enough."