St. Petersburg Times Online: Election 2000
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Republicans fare well with Citrus voters

But Democrat Josh Wooten posted a big win over his GOP opponent for the District 5 County Commission seat.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000


INVERNESS -- Tuesday was a good day for most local Republican candidates.

Property Appraiser Ron Schultz and County Commissioners Roger Batchelor and Vicki Phillips, all Republicans, retained their seats over Democratic challengers.

Then again, maybe it was just a good day for incumbents.

When it came to the open County Commission seat in District 5, Democrat Josh Wooten posted a commanding 58.73 percent win over Republican Millie King.

Wooten, 38, owner of a Hernando used car lot, took 32,041 votes and swept all but two of the precincts.

King, 62, a Sheriff's Office transcriber who picked up 22,518 votes, had the edge in Pine Ridge and Sugarmill Woods, the precinct that gave her the win in her tight October runoff against Republican Scott Adams.

While last month's runoff divided Republicans -- a defeated Adams threw his support to Wooten -- Wooten emerged from the Oct. 3 election with 66.61 percent of the Democratic vote and the endorsement of his last opponent, Democrat Dick Kaufman.

"Coming out of the runoff, I knew my base was pretty secure, so I was able to go after the Republicans and the independent voters," Wooten said.

Wooten sent direct mailings to independent voters. He also picked up 1,756 votes to King's 1,005 votes in Republican-heavy Citrus Hills, where Wooten has served as president of his homeowners' association in Cambridge Greens.

King would not talk Wednesday about the election, but she said she plans to return to work at the Sheriff's Office next week. She will spend the next few days picking up campaign signs and getting rid of the household clutter that has come with months of campaigning.

"I would never run again," said King, who just lost her second bid for the County Commission. "I'm getting up there in age, and I don't want to go through the battle I just went through."

Neither Bruce Van Vlack nor Zoe Gail McLendon, the Democrats who lost to commissioners Batchelor and Phillips, would comment on the election.

Batchelor picked up 60.45 percent, or 32,631 votes, and won all but three precincts. Van Vlack, a retired salesman, took 21,350 votes.

Phillips earned 65.33 percent, or 35,381 votes, while McLendon captured 18,773 votes and won just one precinct, her home turf of south Dunnellon.

Voters coming out of the polls Tuesday generally supported the local incumbents, but they were divided over King and Wooten.

"I talked with Josh Wooten, and I think he has integrity and concern about the environment," said Evan Maranville, 56, who voted for most Republicans except King.

Inverness retiree Annelle Hill, 66, supported Republican George W. Bush but not King, who made her 40 years of government experience a selling point in her campaign.

"Millie King is like Al Gore -- she's been there too long," Hill said. "I don't like politicians, and she's a politician."

Others who were unfamiliar with the local candidates voted the party line.

"I went with Millie King because she's the Democrat," said Luella Schroeder, 73, a Floral City voter.

Actually, King was the Republican.

"Oh well, I guess we lost one," Schroeder said with a chuckle.

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