We’re bumping Commission Email Thursday a day to talk a bit about Rebecca Bays and the continued fallout from Gov. Ron DeSantis sticking his nose in our electoral business.
At the moment, Bays, a former Citrus County commissioner, is a candidate for House District 23. She is not a candidate for County Commission District 4. At the moment.
Any or none of that could change in the coming days or weeks. Such is the uncertainty of politics this particular year.
Bays, you may recall, was left in a pickle after the DeSantis-Blaise Ingoglia-Ralph Massullo trifecta. The governor endorsed Rep. Ingoglia for Senate District 11. Rep. Massullo, who had announced a SD 11 campaign, immediately stepped back into re-election, with the governor’s blessing as well.
J.J. Grow and Dale Merrill bowed out of the House Republican primary almost immediately, leaving Bays, Tod Cloud and Paul Reinhardt.
(Cloud and Reinhardt don’t care whether Massullo runs or not. They’re a nonfactor in this discussion.)
Bays posted a decent March financial report but in a terrible stroke of bad luck, her big fundraiser that month was literally the NIGHT BEFORE Massullo said he was running for reelection instead of the Senate.
But she stayed in the race and I waited for the April report, particularly interested if she was still raising and spending money — the life sign of any serious campaign. These things are constantly in motion.
When the state candidate finance reports for April became available Tuesday, I saw that Bays had filed a waiver, indicating zero activity that month.
She wouldn’t comment on the record. I don’t have a clue what her plans are, but no campaign activity this close to qualifying seems like a white flag.
Let's look at three scenarios:
— Bays stays in the race, thumbs her nose to busybody DeSantis, and allows the voters in Citrus County and the Dunnellon area of Marion County to decide who represents HD 23.
This is my favorite choice, but I realize that’s a rather pollyanna view. While Bays would be viewed favorably for her tenacity, Massullo has a lot more money, a lot more reach, the governor’s endorsement — and he’s a millionaire to self-fund his campaign if necessary in case all his support mysteriously dries up.
The matchup would provide such substantial debate on the many challenges we’re facing — growth management, roads, turnpike, parkway, homeowners insurance etc. If Bays is out of the race, it significantly reduces the level of candidate interaction on the core of these issues and, yeah, I’m being blunt here.
So my hope for Bays to stay in is purely a selfish one. I think the campaign is good for Citrus County.
— Bays bows out of the race, takes time away from politics and focuses on 2024, when it likely will be an open seat for real. Surely that was Grow’s thinking. Bays will be in just as good shape politically to run in two years as she is now.
That said, it would be tough for Bays to do that. It takes months or even a year to get ramped up to run for a major office. Simply abandoning a campaign, when there’s an alternative, seems abrupt.
— The elephant in the room, of course, is the alternative: Bays drops out of HD 23 and into the County Commission District 4 race. It was always out there, of course, that Bays, who served on the board from 2010-14, would float to that commission race if Massullo somehow stayed in the House race.
That brings up a whole bunch of possibilities that I’ll save because none of this has yet happened. Official ballot qualifying is June 13-17; I’m counting nothing out until qualifying week passes.
Citrus County politics in 2022 is unlike any I’ve ever seen and that’s saying something. Glad you’re along for the ride.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.