BROOKSVILLE — You have to go back more than three decades to find the last Republican who served as Hernando County supervisor of elections.
Tuesday's election saw longtime congressional staffer Republican Shirley Anderson skirt by her Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Townsend, to capture the job she has vigorously pursued since she announced her candidacy a year ago.
"I'm so fortunate to have a campaign staff that worked very hard from the beginning to make this happen," an excited Anderson said Tuesday night. "I want to concentrate on bringing the elections office into a whole new generation."
For Anderson, the victory was particularly sweet redemption from four years ago, when she lost to incumbent elections supervisor Annie Williams in a three-way race. When Williams announced last year that she would retire after 12 years in the position, Anderson, who serves as an aide to U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, quickly jumped in with a tightly organized, well-funded campaign that had plenty of backing from the local Republican Party.
Unlike 2008, this time Anderson faced a political newcomer who had worked eight years in the elections office, including two years as operations director. Although not nearly as well-heeled as her opponent, Townsend's campaign managed to zero in on Williams' longtime base.
Although the supervisor's race doesn't usually attract a lot of attention, this year's contest saw its share of ruffled feathers.
In a sharply worded letter from Williams, Anderson was admonished for entering a polling place without authorization during the August primary election. Anderson's camp then accused Townsend of parking her campaign-adorned vehicle too close to the entrance of a polling location.
Anderson, who will take office in January, said she intends to immediately begin concentrating on her promise of making the elections office more efficient, effective and accountable to Hernando taxpayers.
She said that she intends to keep the office's existing employees, including Townsend, at least through a 90-day review period.
"You need experienced people in this office," Anderson said. "That's what I intend to do."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]