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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hernando sheriff's race goes negative



It's the political shot heard 'round Hernando county. A week after the Timber Pines candidate night, county politicos can't stop talking about how the sheriff's race turned ugly, reaching a new low in the local campaign season.

Democratic challenger Luke Frazier, 23, spewed attack after attack at Sheriff Richard Nugent and the story spread quickly. And a video of the forum reviewed by Bay Buzz shows why. The question now is whether a repeat performance will come Friday when the two candidates are scheduled to meet again at the Regency Oaks candidate forum.

The forum took its nastiest turn after a crowd member asked Frazier about his lengthy arrest record.
Frazier said his arrests — ranging from sexual battery to organized fraud — were bogus.

"They've done everything and anything they can, and he will stop at nothing to discredit any person that will run against him," Frazier said. "Make no mistake, this man will lie, steal and do anything necessary to protect his position."

The comments left Nugent stunned and visibly shaken. Nugent later retorted: "I take offense to being called a liar and a cheat and a criminal. I've dedicated 36 years of my life to public service. … I can’t imagine the dribble that comes out of certain individual's mouths. I've never seen it."

When he finished, the sheriff abruptly left the stage as the audience gave a partial standing ovation. Sitting in the audience, Nugent’s wife Wendy broke down in tears.

But write-in candidate Marc Reusch, in his final remarks, didn't stop. "The reason (the county) is screwed up is because one person has a death grip on everything that goes on," he said of Nugent. "I don't even expect that you would offer to support me in public as long as he is office because it is putting your life in danger." For more, read tomorrow's Hernando Times.

--John Frank, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:37am]


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