Dark horse candidate seeks foothold in Pasco superintendent's race
While the political set talks about Kurt Browning and Heather Fiorentino, Moon Lake construction worker Kenneth Benson is spending his time collecting signatures from Pasco County voters and talking about their concerns.
He's making some headway. Benson estimates he's less than 100 certified signatures away from qualifying for the August Republican primary. He hopes to carry their message to the Pasco schools superintendent's office.
" I know the heartbeat of the people," Benson told the Gradebook. "People don't like career politicians, and they don't like double dippers."
Browning and Fiorentino have each held political office for more than two decades. Browning also faced criticism as secretary of state for taking a salary and also his pension as retired Pasco elections supervisor. He has said he will take a salary of $1 if elected superintendent.
Benson, who said he has served in the military and law enforcement before moving to Florida, said he's in the race to "serve the people" and "not for a retirement check or to be a double dipper."
He said he wants to give teachers raises using a renewed Penny for Pasco. (Law requires sales tax proceeds be used for construction and other capital projects, and not for operations.) He also said he would like to create a top-notch adult education and vocational school for Pasco County.
Lack of name recognition and campaign funds pose hurdles. Benson's only financial supporters are his family so far, and his totals are dwarfed by those of Browning and Fiorentino. He remains undaunted.
"I know they're outdoing me with money," he said. "But the thing is, I believe I'm for the people. I don't believe those two career politicians are there for the people. That's the only reason I am hanging on. ... Never underestimate a man."