“The lion and the lamb shall lie together, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.” — Woody Allen
When I started this Just Wright Citrus gig a few months back, I was eager to get in front of organizations to tell them what I was up to. I wanted to explain our mission of shining light on things that need some light, while simultaneously encouraging a community spirit.
There was one group I wanted to get to more than any other: Republicans.
Republicans and I have a rather deep history in Citrus County. I’ve watched the party grow from success stories here and there to become much more influential in Citrus County than their Democratic counterparts.
Considering the Republicans today have over half the total voter registration in Citrus County, it’s hard to think there was a time when there were so few of them.
My first Citrus County election was in 1988. That year voters made Betty Strifler the first Republican constitutional officer when she was voted clerk of court. Prior to that, David Watson was a Republican on the school board, when the school board was partisan.
Over time, Republicans began to whittle away at voter registration numbers and started getting elected to office. I may be wrong about this, but I think Josh Wooten was the last elected Democrat county commissioner in 2000.
Early political coverage meant a lot of time in Beverly Hills, because everyone knew a candidate didn’t get elected without the Beverly Hills vote. Today, I don’t think any community has a political advantage, though Republicans in Sugarmill Woods, Pine Ridge, Citrus Springs and Citrus Hills certainly have sway.
Today’s Citrus County Republican Party is going through the same transition as Republican organizations throughout Florida and the U.S. Current Citrus chairman Mike Moberley does an exceptional job keeping the party focused and on point.
And so it was that I stood last Thursday at Marguerita Grill speaking to the Homosassa River Republican Club. I do a lot of public speaking but I can’t recall ever being so nervous.
I told them I felt like I was at a 12-step meeting.
“Hi, I’m Mike. I’m a Democrat.”
Did I not mention that part? One of a dying breed in this county but I don’t want to give it up. Others have switched — Charlie Dean, Sandra “Sam” Himmel come to mind. Twice I’ve been a Republican — I switched to vote in primaries when no-party candidates blocked the ballot — but I switched back the next day.
(By the way, don’t be shocked I’m revealing that. Someone’s voter affiliation is a public record. This isn’t the first time I’ve come clean about it.)
I have voted for many, many Republicans, especially on the local level. Some were in the room that day.
We had a wonderful time talking about Citrus County, the issues it faces and how best to move us along. We didn’t talk much about politics. There were a few national political questions, but I steer away from that. I’m no more expert on the president than I am on nuclear science.
It’s a good time for Citrus County Republicans. Having Gov. Ron DeSantis as the party’s Lincoln Day dinner speaker is a really big deal, as it should be. Tickets are $150 — steep for a normal year but this isn’t normal. DeSantis is a rock star to Republicans and that thing will sell out in no time.
I’m very appreciative of Moberley, club president Don Farley, and the fine Homosassa River Republicans who showed up last week, curious about this Just Wright Citrus business and its mission.
I am convinced Citrus County will thrive when we will start talking to each other instead of barking at each other. Thank you, Republicans, for encouraging that resolve.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.