My, oh my what a busy Primary Election Day in Citrus County. So let’s get right to it.
— Winner of the day is Diana Finegan, whose County Commission District 2 win over Stacey Worthington was nothing short of impressive.
The forces behind NPA Paul Grogan’s “campaign” must be giddy this played out exactly as hoped. By blocking the primary to solely Republican voters, Finegan appealed to the far Right base and enough of them showed up to push her across the finish line.
That said, 57% win for a first-time candidate in a grueling County Commission race falls into the “mandate” or “statement” category. Truthfully, though, I’m not sure what the statement is.
Clearly, voters wanted Finegan, so it’s not that. The question is, why? I’m not being factitious. What did Finegan bring to the campaign trail that voters are expecting once in office — other than she’s their voice?
And, technically, Finegan’s not in office yet. We still have this odd — I don’t know what to call it — mystery election with Grogan.
But that’s way in the weeds and really what I want to say is Finegan deserves the win. She worked hard for it and so did her volunteers. Those “proven leader for 25 years” signs were everywhere. At meet-the-candidate nights, Diana connected with voters.
Sometimes it’s not a deep turnpike-like issue that sends voters to a candidate. Sometimes it’s just a feeling.
— Rebecca Bays started the year planning a run for House District 23 and, when that fell apart, she opted instead for County Commission District 4.
Bays and I have some history, having covered both the 2010 election and her four years in office.
So I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. I knew she would have worthy ideas and a general idea of how things work.
What stood Bays out from a very competent John Murphy Jr. was her depth of knowledge about the county. I think I mentioned this. I get text messages from candidates all the time about this, that and the other. Bays sent me a series of texts breaking down a history of sales tax revenue in Florida.
She is keenly aware of what’s going on in county government, how it got there and ways to improve it.
Thanking supporters at the Cove Pub and Grub, Bays looked and sounded like someone who’s seriously ready to start on Day 1. I know it’s a cliché, but this time it fits.
—And how about Ed Spaight? He’s run for judge before, he’s sought appointments for judge, but on Tuesday Citrus County voters told him to get fitted for a black robe.
Like Finegan, Spaight also had an impressive vote total: 57%.
Here’s the very cool thing: Voters went against the norm and elected a defense attorney as judge over a prosecutor, Lisa Yeager. How often does that happen?
A well-earned win for Spaight.
— Rep. Ralph Massullo was re-elected in what will go down as the most forgettable House race ever.
Massullo was in the HD 23 race only because of what happened higher up the political food chain. When J.J. Grow, and then Rebecca Bays dropped out, that left just a three-term incumbent with a pair of candidates who, though well meaning, weren’t in the same category.
— Finally, what to make of this School Board District 5 outcome?
It’s Joe Faherty and incumbent Linda Powers in the Election Day runoff. Deborah Daniels, who had both the Chronicle and teachers’ union endorsements, faded down the stretch with Primary Day voters and finished third.
School board is an odd duck in the primary process in that there’s a runoff if the overall winner doesn’t receive 50%-plus-1. Faherty won the primary with 31% and Powers had 28%, so they both go to the runoff.
The neat thing is that, with all these other races out of the way, we have time between now and November to focus some on school issues, maybe get a little dialogue going with Faherty and Powers.
Running for office is difficult work. Congratulations to those who continue onward.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.