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Schrader to face familiar challenger in Pasco County Commission race

Ron Oakley, the east Pasco citrus grower and former chairman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, once supported County Commissioner Ted Schrader. Not anymore.

Now he wants Schrader's job.

Oakley, 65, said he will file campaign papers this morning and has a formal announcement scheduled for noon in Dade City.

This means Schrader will face a supporter-turned-challenger in a Republican primary for a second straight election. In 2008, he defeated San Antonio developer and Tampa firefighter John Nicolette in a heated contest.

But Oakley stressed he doesn't have a personal beef with Schrader, whom he has known for decades.

"I don't have any grudge or anything else like that," he said. "I just feel like I need to run and he just happens to be in that office."

Both men live in District 1, which covers much of east Pasco. Candidates must live in the district they represent, but are elected countywide.

Oakley said he is running to decrease the size of government, streamline permitting and ensure Pasco has a sustainable water supply. He said the County Commission could use "some new blood," but said there is a not a specific issue that he and Schrader disagree on.

Schrader, 55, filed for a fourth term in early June, saying it would be his last term on the board. He said the east Pasco rumor mill has recently been buzzing about Oakley's candidacy.

"That's ironic he would bring up lowering the size of government," he said. "I've had a history and track record of lowering property taxes, and the water management district has not."

Gov. Rick Scott recently signed legislation cutting the water district's property tax rate by 36 percent.

Schrader said he has long counted the Oakley family as supporters. In 2008, Schrader collected more than $1,500 in contributions from the family, including $500 from Ron. Schrader said Oakley's brother Thomas wrote him a check for the current election cycle.

Oakley, who grew up in Dade City and now lives in Zephyrhills, was appointed in 2007 to the governing board of the agency commonly known as Swiftmud. He served as board chairman for a year but resigned from the job last week.

His time at the agency, he said, gave him extensive knowledge of water issues. If elected, he will seek a seat on the board of the regional water supply agency Tampa Bay Water.

Oakley is also an executive with Oakley Groves, his family's citrus and development business with headquarters in Lake Wales.

Pasco GOP state committeeman Bill Bunting said Oakley's entrance makes it an "interesting race" that could divide the east Pasco political establishment.

"They both have experience, one as a county commissioner and the other as the head of Swiftmud," Bunting said. "They've both got good credentials."

The Republican primary for the position will be next August. No Democrats have filed to run for the seat.

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.

Schrader to face familiar challenger in Pasco County Commission race 06/30/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2011 9:45pm]

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