Challenges right from the start
There’s a new candidate for county commission and he immediately has my attention.
Paul Grogan tossed his hat into the ring Monday for county commission District 2. If he qualifies for the ballot in June, he’ll join (as of now) Republicans Diana Finegan and Stacey Worthington as candidates.
I spoke briefly with Paul and he seems like a nice person who is well known in the community. He’s a longtime Citrus resident and we have similar circles of friends and it’s somewhat odd our paths have not crossed. He says he’s running to give back to his community, and I love hearing that.
So what I’m about to say has nothing to do with the candidate himself. Seven months from now we may look back with admiration on Grogan’s successful county commission run.
But Grogan has two significant hurdles to overcome right out of the gate:
Grogan resides in Inverness just outside, coincidentally, District 4, which is the other commission race on the ballot.
Grogan said he’s planning a move for his family to Chassahowitzka, which would place him in District 2. (Here's a map of the commission districts.)
Before I type another word, I was hoping to never again be writing about county commission candidates and where they live. This really should be so, so simple.
While our commissioners are elected by voters countywide, the county is divided into five districts to ensure both a geographic balance in office. The idea is each commissioner would be dug into his or her community and understand that area’s needs.
When candidates pull residency flim-flam — I live here, but might live there, or on the other street, or sometimes in the garage, or maybe my car is there, check my electric bill — they’re playing us for fools. I don’t like being played a fool and I know you don’t either.
Enough on residency.
Now let’s talk about NPA.
No-party affiliation candidates are the scourge on local politics. An NPA candidate has never come close to winning a local election and in a county where half the registered voters are Republican, it doesn’t seem likely this year either.
Not only that, but his mere candidacy shuts out half the registered voters who want a shot in deciding between the Republicans on the primary ballot.
It works like this: Florida primaries are closed — registered Republicans in the Republican primary, registered Democrats in the Democratic primary. Unlike some states, you can’t walk up on primary day and declare your party affiliation on the spot.
There is an important exception. If all the candidates for a partisan race are of the same party, EVERYONE gets to vote. So if there are three Republicans for county commission and no other candidates on the general election ballot, the primary is open to all voters.
An NPA screws with that because his name is on the November ballot. That means the Republican primary is open only to registered Republicans, even though there’s a strong likelihood the primary winner will easily take the general election against an NPA.
There are 57,000 registered voters in this county who, like me, are not Republican. Our choice when an NPA is involved is to either miss the primary battle between the front runners, or scramble at primary time to switch parties. I’ve done the latter twice.
To Grogan’s great credit, he’s not using the NPA designation just to screw with non-Republicans, as we’ve seen some GOP candidates do. He’s been registered as an NPA since 2013 so Grogan really is no-party affiliation.
And I don’t want to poo-poo the man’s campaign before it starts. We want smart, vibrant candidates who will help lead the discussion on our many challenges. I’m confident Grogan will be that candidate.
But I call ‘em as I see ‘em. And two things you can count on during Citrus County campaign season:
Qualifying is in six weeks. We’ll keep an eye on this one.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.