Well, how about that Joe Faherty?
And give it up for Crystal Lizanich.
Citrus County had not one but two political newbies win their respective races over incumbents on Tuesday and both are well deserved.
Faherty, the longtime sheriff’s school resource deputy, wanted to be on the school board to help kids, something he’s done for years. He never said a bad word about the current school board, superintendent, his opponent or anything, actually, now that I think of it.
Linda Powers had an 18-year incumbent resume, but her campaign lacked the passion that Faherty brought.
They didn’t really disagree on anything that I recall. And neither gave in to the anti-school weirdness that’s permeating here and there.
This wasn’t even one of those “she’s been in there long enough” type races. Joe didn't pitch that at all.
It really came down to a choice.
People generally cast a vote for one of two reasons: They want someone to win or they want someone to lose. It’s not the same thing.
Just look at Paul Grogan, the odd NPA in County Commission District 2. Didn’t campaign a day, didn’t spend a dime, not even in the community and he still racked up 22% against Diana Finegan. I’m not taking anything from Finegan because she deserved to win. But were those Grogan votes for him or against his opponent?
That wasn’t the case for school board. Both candidates are respected community leaders. It simply came down to a choice, and 57% of voters chose one over the other.
Joe and I have known each other for many years and we had some interesting chats during the campaign. I was hard on him in our conversations. I wanted to make sure he isn’t influenced by those who have political interests, not kid interests. He assured me that isn’t the case and I believe him.
I think we’re looking at a guy who genuinely wants to help kids. Help keep them safe, engaged and enthused. I see good things coming from School Board member Joe Faherty.
As for Crystal, well, I didn’t see that coming. I knew the Inverness City Council race would be tight between Crystal, Labriola Guy and incumbent David Ryan. I said under 40% could win it and I was right — Crystal had 37.7%. She defeated Labriola Guy by just 39 votes.
Ryan finished third, well out of the running. Although he’s served two terms, both were unopposed so this is the first time he’s faced voters. I frankly expected a much better showing and I’m sure he did too.
The difference is voters keyed into both Crystal and Labriola Guy, for different reasons of course. Crystal wants to improve the city; Labriola Guy wants to tear it down and apparently he’s convinced many people that’s the right path.
Now. I know both Crystal and mayoral candidate Max Schulman got into the race because of a Just Wright Citrus blog that suggested Inverness could use an election to talk about our city’s challenges and successes.
However, I have no doubt Labriola Guy saw this as an opportunity to dip his big toe into the local political waters by winning election to a legitimate government. And, based solely on Tuesday’s outcome, he would have easily defeated Ryan if it was just those two.
And that, most rational-thinking adults agree, would have been a disaster. We have Crystal Lizanich to thank for keeping Labriola Guy off the Inverness City Council.
Mayor Bob Plaisted had an exceptional showing with 65% over Schulman. I got to know Max a little bit during the campaign and I hope he stays close to City Hall. Mayor Bob had those yellow signs and T-shirts everywhere. You couldn’t drive a mile though town without seeing them all over. He worked hard for re-election and deserves it.
As for Diana Finegan, I hope we can bury the campaign rhetoric on all sides and encourage her success. This was a tough, tough campaign. Might take a while to get past it but hopefully not too long. Diana takes office in two weeks.
Congrats also: Joe Adams, Blaise Ingoglia (that guy’s going to be a riot, just watch), Gus Bilirakis. And our friend Wilton Simpson, the newly elected agriculture commissioner.
It was a good election and I’m glad it’s over. Normally I sit in a dark room for three days after an election, but Nicole has other plans.
Good job everyone.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.