It’s Tuesday, so let’s talk about county commission District 4.
Rarely do we have a county commission district race, decided in the primary and open to all voters, where any of the three candidates could start on Day One ready to go. That’s what District 4 provides.
Rebecca Bays and Winn Webb, both former single-term commissioners with well-earned reputations in the community. Same for John Murphy Jr., a fixture at the Citrus County Chronicle for 20-plus years and a Boy Scout leader.
Politics aside, that’s an impressive lineup right there.
Politics not aside, there are differences. And there is one specific difference between Bays, Murphy and Webb, which we’ll get into shortly.
Here’s what I decided to do. I made it known early on that I’d be looking at candidates in four categories, in order:
Notice I seek opinions last, not first. Everyone has an opinion. What’s behind it, that’s what I want to know.
It’s easy to see all three candidates score high on the first two categories. They’re clearly county leaders. They’re well versed in the communities (particularly the District 4 region of Floral City/Inverness, where attention from our commissioner has been noticeably lacking in recent years).
For government knowledge, Bays and Webb each have an equal number of years in office: four. Both decided not to run for re-election, though Webb instead ran for sheriff and lost against Jeff Dawsy for his last term, then he ran for county commission again in 2014 and lost to Scott Carnahan.
Murphy has been the chamber of commerce liaison to county and state government for years, so he knows how the process works. Not the same as actual experience, but how often are your opponents former commissioners?
Bays’ grasp of county government is, I must say, rather impressive. She’s one of those analytical types, as am I, and she knows where all the parts fit.
So it comes down to challenges/solutions. And that’s where the divide, particularly with Webb from the other two, takes place.
First off, and I’m not going to belabor this, but Webb is totally on board the Library Guy train. He was endorsed by Library Guy and absolutely buys into his nonsense that the county needs a policy to protect the younguns from library displays.
Webb said never heard of MassResistance, the anti-gay and lesbian hate group that has Library Guy as its Citrus County spokesman.
Bays and Murphy believe, rightly, that library talk should be in the rearview mirror.
About those two. Both have run impressive campaigns. They both see the challenges that exist today and have some idea how to move forward.
I’ve talked with several people in recent weeks who have known both Bays and Murphy for years and are torn as to what to do. They’re that close.
They’re so close I’d screw it up if I tried to break down their position on issues. But I offer this:
Bays, as I mentioned, really knows her stuff. I get things sent to me on occasion from candidates, usually thoughts about this or that. Last week Rebecca sent me a series of texts with data on sales tax in Citrus County and Florida. She does her homework.
Murphy is a data person too, but his strength is he really identifies with people. I know John will appreciate the sentiment here, but he’s about as average a guy as you’ll find. He connects well with business owners and workers. When they talk with him about their challenges, he understands and can apply that to what the government can do to assist.
As for Webb, he identifies with seniors for sure. And while I get the whole no-new-tax talk during uncertain economic times, that’s an easy call during the campaign. I didn’t hear much vision from Winn. That said, plop him onto a five-member county commission, he’ll get along fine with everyone and work toward solutions.
District 4 gives us an uncommon opportunity: An open primary for county commissioner, three solid candidates, winner take all. Thank you, election gods.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.