On Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning's reelection, filing fees and public perceptions
Schools superintendent Kurt Browning is among Pasco County's most popular politicians. Browning rarely has faced a foe in his election bids, and when he has, he's swamped his opposition.
Witness his 2012 race, when he won all precincts in his bid to oust two-term incumbent superintendent Heather Fiorentino.
Gathering petition signatures to secure his place on the 2016 ballot might have been easy for Browning. But he didn't collect a single signature. Instead, he paid the $8,610 filing fee.
It turns out that Fiorentino's failed reelection campaign loomed large in Browning's decision to forego the free route. Several employees accused Fiorentino and some of her key staff lieutenants of attempting to intimidate them into backing her. A School Board-requested outside report, which Fiorentino blasted as inaccurate, determined a level of political activity in the superintendent's office created the impression that support was expected.
Browning said he didn't want even a suggestion that he had done the same.
"I did not want to put district staff in a position of feeling compelled to go out and get petitions signed," he said. "We needed to stay focused on their work."
He acknowledged that many employees contributed to his campaign account, but said he never asked for a penny, and told his supporters not to seek money from district staff. The donations were made of their own accord, Browning said. No one has hinted otherwise.
As he noted, the money wasn't even needed. No one else filed, and Browning walked into his second term unopposed. He's set to be sworn in on Nov. 22, along with School Board incumbent Alison Crumbley and newcomer Colleen Beaudoin, who also won unopposed.