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Political foe takes aim at state House seat held by Republican Party chief

By Barbara Behrendt | Times Staff
Published: January 2, 2018 Updated: January 3, 2018 at 08:55 AM
Former Hernando County Commissioner Jeff Stabins prefiled paperwork Tuesday to run for the Florida House District 35 seat, which represents most of Hernando County. [Times (2011)]

SPRING HILL — Former Hernando County Commissioner Jeff Stabins prefiled paperwork Tuesday to challenge state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, for the House District 35 seat, which represents most of Hernando County.

Stabins, 58 and also a Spring Hill Republican, served three previous terms in the Legislature and two terms on the County Commission. He comes into this race swinging at Ingoglia, who has been a political foe for some time.

For Ingoglia, who heads the state Republican Party, this is his first primary challenge. Ingoglia also has prefiled, seeking his third consecutive term in the Legislature.

No other candidate has stepped forward seeking the seat.

In his announcement, Stabins criticized Ingoglia’s time on the tournament poker circuit and called him a "home flipper of questionable repute.’’

"Ingoglia made a fortune flipping houses during the real estate bubble and then rode an angry wave of the Tea Party crowd to the pinnacle of power as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and state representative,’’ Stabins said.

Ingoglia did not have an immediate comment on Stabins’ announcement.

When Stabins was commission chairman in 2007, Ingoglia, a home builder, gained recognition in Hernando County by creating his "Government Gone Wild" program criticizing government spending. The following year, Ingoglia spent $25,000 of his own money to support candidates trying to oust incumbent commissioners.

Stabins, a teacher, came to Hernando County in 1987. He was elected to the state House in 1992 and elected freshman class president by his Republican peers.

In the House, he supported issues ranging from tax-free shopping days to the veterans’ preference in public-sector hiring.

As commissioner, he championed the requirement for a supermajority to change the county’s comprehensive plan. He voted to reduce property tax rates and criticized what he called the "bloated budget’’ of the sheriff. And he fought the proposal to expand judicial space in the courthouse.

Stabins did not seek re-election in 2012 and briefly dropped out of the Republican Party. Known for his quirky behavior, he wrote a blog on behalf of his dog, Rusty, that loosely mirrored county politics.

He also wrote a note to the commission chairman when he missed a meeting that some mistook for a suicide note.

While on the commission, Stabins chose to cut his salary by approximately $10,000. As a candidate for the House seat, he plans to limit campaign contributions to $50 per person.

"I will fight in Tallahassee for my fellow citizens and against the monied interests that Blaise Ingoglia and his ilk covet,’’ Stabins said. "It’s high time to put the Blaise out to pasture, once and for all."