It is customary in Citrus County government, and likely elsewhere, to invite newly elected commissioners to drop in for a briefing before taking office.
These meetings with top county brass bring incoming commissioners up to speed about the major goings on. When the two new commissioners are sworn in on Nov. 22, the idea goes that they’ll be ready to join the discussion.
So not unusual at all for County Administrator Randy Oliver to meet this week with Rebecca Bays, who was elected to office in the District 4 primary that, as we know, was open to all voters and thus produced a winner.
What was unusual was he also met with Diana Finegan, who won the District 2 Republican primary but still isn’t elected because a paper tiger in the form of a mysterious NPA candidate stands in her way.
When I asked Oliver about that, he said he also extended an invitation to Paul Grogan, the no-party affiliate whose bizarre campaign has given voters anything but the warm fuzzies that his candidacy is legitimate.
Nice, but that’s not the norm.
Let’s rehash just a little bit.
There were five primary county commission candidates total: Finegan and Stacey Worthington in District 2; Bays, John Murphy Jr. and Winn Webb in District 4.
Oliver didn’t invite any of those candidates in for a briefing before the primary. While all five were legit candidates, it’s not the sort of thing administrators tend to do at this stage of the election process. That said, had any of THEM asked — and I encouraged it — Oliver would gladly have given candidates an overview.
The more knowledge a candidate has, the more he or she can dive deep into the challenges that Citrus County faces. I think you’ll see Bays use her — frankly, pretty impressive — knowledge of county government for that very purpose. Bays has an advantage being a former commissioner, but she didn’t miss the opportunity to meet with Oliver this week so that she’s ready to go on Day 1.
So, back to the primary.
District 4 was above board with three great candidates, all Republicans, which opened the primary to all voters. Even if your candidate didn't win, we should all be happy to have had the opportunity to choose.
District 2, not so much. Finegan and Worthington were fine candidates, but the primary blocked out non-Republicans because of Grogan’s entry.
Grogan’s campaign — and I’m being generous calling it that — has consisted of praising Finegan and publicly supporting her in the primary. He has a campaign Facebook page that reads like a bulletin board of community events but is void of:
So the idea that this so-called candidate would receive a briefing invite from the county administrator because his opponent, an actual primary winner, also received one — that doesn’t pass the smell test.
This isn’t the first time a primary winner faced a far weaker opponent in the general election. But I don’t recall Oliver or his predecessors bringing candidates in until the matter is settled and someone’s elected.
More likely, Oliver is being practical. Regardless of Grogan’s intentions, he’s still NPA and extremely unlikely to win in November. Bringing Finegan in for a briefing now is simply logical.
The whole thing’s just kind of weird, that’s all.
By the way, Oliver shouldn't expect an appointment with Grogan anytime soon. I texted him Wednesday to see if he's in Citrus County, and he responded shortly before midnight:
"Be back in 4 weeks."
Back in four weeks. You call that a campaign?
Like I said, weird.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.