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Familiar face enters Brooksville City Council race

BROOKSVILLE — Joe Johnston III is running for a spot on the Brooksville City Council.

Does that sound familiar?

A three-term council member who was forced out of office by term limits in 2006, Johnston was the final candidate to qualify by the Friday deadline for the Nov. 4 election. His late entrance into the race gives Brooksville a pair of three-way competitions for the two available spots on the council this fall.

Johnston, 56, will compete against incumbent Frankie Burnett and relative newcomer Jason Sharp for the Group 3 seat. Burnett, 52, has been on the council since 2004, when he prevailed in another tight three-way race.

Burnett offered no comment about Johnston's candidacy, but said nothing had changed for him as far as campaign strategy.

"I'm still going to continue to do what I've always been doing," Burnett said Friday. "And that's put people over politics."

Neither Johnston nor Sharp, 32, were available for comment Friday.

In the Group 2 race, Mayor David Pugh Jr. will try to fend off challenges from Cecil D. Davis IV, who unsuccessfully ran against Lara Bradburn for the Group 4 seat in 2006, and Brooksville Housing Authority board member Yvette Taylor.

Pugh, 36, is the only person in that race to have been elected to public office. But he said he's taking both challengers seriously, especially in a town where a handful of votes could make all the difference.

"I'd never take anything for granted," Pugh said. "Hopefully, my record will speak for itself."

Davis, 28, who runs a metal fabrication company in south Brooksville, wants to bring fiscal responsibility to the council.

"Serving the public interest is extremely important to me, not special interests," he said. "I'm going to try to convince them, through better management we can have a successful city."

Taylor, 38, said she believed she could rally the support needed to unseat Pugh and defeat Davis.

"I have supporters that are enthused with me," she said. "No disrespect to either person running with me, I just have a great chance of winning this election."

The political re-emergence of Johnston, who served as mayor four times during his 12-year stint on the council (1994 to 2006), could add some intrigue to both council races. Johnston clashed with Pugh in his final months on the council, appointing then-incoming council member Richard E. Lewis to attend a meeting between city officials and auditors about a $189,000 accounting error.

Pugh protested the move at the time, saying it was an inappropriate choice because it was made without consulting other council members and because it favored Lewis over Joe Bernardini, another incoming council member. Johnston responded that he wanted someone who hadn't voted on the issue and someone who would be on the council when the auditor reported back in December 2006.

Pugh said Friday he would welcome the opportunity to work with Johnston again.

"He does have something to offer with his law experience, which was valuable before," Pugh said. "If I happen to win my race, I'd be more than happy to work with him. We're all there for a common goal."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

>>Fast facts

The candidates

Group 2

Cecil D. Davis IV

David Pugh Jr. (incumbent)

Yvette Taylor

Group 3

Frankie Burnett (incumbent)

Joe Johnston III

Jason Sharp

City Council elections are nonpartisan. Candidates run for specific seats, and city voters cast ballots for all seats.

Familiar face enters Brooksville City Council race 08/29/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 31, 2008 5:26pm]

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