Preliminaries are out of the way, wannabe candidates off to the sidelines and now the real fun starts.
The Aug. 23 primary will be here before you know it, and we’ve got a lot to cover in that short time. One county commissioner will be elected in the primary. Perhaps a school board member as well. The stakes are high and there’s a nervous energy among the candidates that, frankly, is refreshing to see.
I’m right there with them. The five county commission candidates — Diana Finegan and Stacey Worthington in District 2; Rebecca Bays, John Murphy and Winn Webb in District 4 — I know all these people. Some better than others, but I’m telling you it’s a high ceiling.
I sent an email Friday evening to the commission candidates and started it this way:
“I wanted to reach out to all five of you before the day ends to say how excited I am about these two county commission races this year. Most of you have known me for a long time, and I can say, without a doubt, this is the best slate of primary candidates for county commission that I can remember. All five of you are outstanding leaders in this community and each of you can show up on Day 1 ready to get started.”
The view is sincere. And for that, we should have every expectation of excellent discourse from these candidates between now and primary day.
I’m focusing plenty on the county commission because that’s where I see our immediate attention. Doesn’t mean I’m ignoring the school board District 5 race with three challengers — Deborah Daniels, Joe Faherty and Mary Seader — up against incumbent Linda Powers, who is completing her third full term.
As for the state and congressional races, we’ll spotlight them from time to time but they’re not going to get as much attention in this space.
To say I’ve waited my whole life to cover a local campaign entirely on my own is ridiculous, but not far off. Everyone has a purpose on this planet and mine is writing about Citrus County politics. Whoever voters choose to fill those two slots on the county commission will help shape Citrus County for years.
It’s no time to mess around.
So, how do I play it? Like this:
First off, we can’t lose sight of the mission, and that’s to have insightful community conversation that helps move the needle with decision-makers.
Several people recently have called on me to ask the tough questions of candidates. I’m suggesting a different tactic: Let’s talk instead.
I see my role less as a gatekeeper of candidate views and more a facilitator for discussion. I introduce a daily topic and you opine on it. Candidates will be doing the same thing and I’ll be watching what they’re telling voters about the issues raised on this blog.
It’s not like we’re talking about one thing here and the rest of Citrus County is talking about something else. Folks are generally focused on the same challenges: growth, road congestion, affordable housing, taxes, paving neighborhood roads. Most everything else is a subcomponent.
I’ll tell you what I know about the candidates based on their public statements or actions. That’s easy for former commissioners Bays and Webb and, to a lesser extreme, Worthington, who is a member of the Planning and Development Commission and therefore has a voting track record on zoning/variance issues.
I rarely conduct an on-the-record interview for Just Wright Citrus and I’m not about to start (excluding the video interviews I’m doing with Digital Hound Media for Citrus County Live). Many blog topics come from conversation with folks at Cattle Dog’s. No reason to switch gears now.
That said, you’ll not see any candidate endorsements here. Endorsements are for newspapers. It’s not my role to advise that sort of thing. I’ll report where the candidates stand on the big issues and the rest is up to you.
It’s only the present and future of Citrus County at stake. Strap in for a wild ride.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.