BROOKSVILLE — The 2012 race for Hernando County supervisor of elections is shaping up to be one of the more interesting contests on the ballot with the entrance of a longtime congressional staffer who made a strong showing in 2008.
Shirley Anderson, a Spring Hill Republican, prefiled Thursday to run for the seat, which Democrat Annie Williams has held since 2000. When Anderson, 53, challenged Williams four years ago, she garnering 37 percent of the vote in a three-way race.
Anderson served as district director for U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite for seven years and stayed in that post when former Hernando Sheriff Rich Nugent won the District 5 seat upon Brown-Waite's retirement. Williams said last week that she will retire next year after serving three four-year terms.
Anderson could wind up facing two candidates with experience in the elections office, one in the primary and one in the general election.
Kyro Morales, a 35-year-old Brooksville Republican, served under Williams for six years, working his way up to a brief stint as assistant supervisor before leaving in November 2010 for another job.
Elizabeth Townsend, a Wesley Chapel Democrat who plans to move back to Hernando early next year, is currently the office's director of operations. Towsend, 38, joined the elections office in 2004 as community relations coordinator and was promoted to her current post last December.
In 2008, Anderson garnered plenty of money and support from the local Republican establishment and also tried to capitalize on a couple of blunders Williams' office had made. Anderson's impact was blunted by Brooksville businessman Gus Guadagnino, who ran as an independent.
Asked what she will emphasize to voters to gain an edge over opponents with firsthand experience, Anderson replied: "I believe with my administrative skills and leadership, I can create efficiencies to restore confidence, integrity and fiscal responsibility to our local election office."
A native of DeFuniak Springs, Anderson has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of South Florida. She raised her family in Polk County and ran a construction business there with her former husband, then moved to Hernando County in 2001. She worked as a legislative assistant for Brown-Waite in the Florida Senate and served as her congressional district director from 2003 to 2010.
The current salary for the elections supervisor is $102,524.
Williams told the Times last week that she will not make an endorsement in the race, saying that both Morales and Townsend are qualified and would do a good job.
Williams' decision to retire leaves yet another open constitutional office seat in Hernando.
Clerk of Circuit Court Karen Nicolai in September announced her retirement and endorsed as her successor Don Barbee, a former prosecutor who now serves as director of court services and general counsel. Then, last month, Alvin Mazourek announced he would not seek re-election, throwing his support behind his chief deputy, John Emerson.
Juanita Sikes, Hernando's tax collector since 2000, told the Times last week that she will decide by January whether to seek a fourth term.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.