Friday, November 24, 2017
News Roundup

Money in politics: At least it's consistent

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Hopefully, when it comes to Hernando County power brokers, you've paid attention closely enough to understand shorthand:

Kimbrough, Bronson, Mason, Buckner, Varn, Hogan, Schraut.

All these names appear on the most recent campaign finance report of County Commissioner John Druzbick, who is running for re-election in District 3 and has already amassed $19,833 — far more than any other commission candidate.

The lavish contributions to Druzbick's campaign in 2008 by many of same folks was punishment of his opponent, Democrat Diane Rowden. The new flood of cash is his reward for doing as he was told:

He did it with the "yes" vote for the Quarry Preserve, that harebrained future city-in-a-mining-pit. He did it by joining other eager-to-please commissioners who suspended impact fees altogether when builders had just asked for them to stay really low.

And last fall, Druzbick said, the business community had lost faith in former County Administrator David Hamilton. We don't know who exactly was in that "community," though we do know that Brooksville Realtor Gary Schraut was the one making calls to commissioners.

We also know that in 2008, Schraut was able to funnel thousands of dollars from a statewide Realtor-backed political action committee to pay for a mailed-out attack ad against Rowden.

So this is how it looked when Druzbick introduced the motion to fire Hamilton: Schraut had said "jump," and Druzbick hopped along like a good little bunny.

The influence of money in politics. It's dismaying. It's frustrating. It's a little bit sickening.

And in this race, strangely, it's reassuring.

That's because Druzbick's opponent in the Republican primary is the county's leading tea partier, Jason Sager.

Sager has only collected about $4,000 in donations, none of them from the previously mentioned big shots. That may change, of course. Sager said he hasn't yet started raising money in earnest. Most of Druzbick's contributions came from one fundraiser at the Palace Grand last month, and some of the checks were small enough to suggest donors might later hedge their bets.

Still, it's a very impressive show of support very early in the race. And if it means business as usual in Hernando, it at least means things aren't taking a turn for the worse. It shows, maybe, most Republicans are starting to realize that tri-cornered hats aren't too different from tin-foil ones.

Druzbick is a mainstream Republican, and his backing of proposals from business people — even proposals that will cost average residents in higher taxes or reduced services — is hardly surprising. Nor is it surprising that Sager says he would have voted the same way.

His only real point of attack? Druzbick's vote for a miniscule increase in the property tax rate that didn't come close to making up for the lost revenue from falling property values.

It was the bare minimum the commission could do to maintain services. It was the least Druzbick could do to show he respects the work of county employees — that at least on some level he respects government.

And if powerful people in Hernando are okay with that, well, thank goodness.

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