Friday, February 23, 2018
Politics

Former Hernando Commissioner Rose Rocco enters race for state House seat

Former Hernando County Commissioner Rose Rocco is making another bid for the state House of Representatives.

Rocco, 72, filed Friday to run as a Democrat for the District 35 seat currently held by Republican Rob Schenck, who must leave office because of term limits. The district includes most of Hernando except for the area generally north of State Road 50 and west of the Suncoast Parkway.

Rocco, of Spring Hill, said Democratic Party officials urged her to run months ago but that she had to tend to some personal issues before making a decision. She said the same issues that motivated her to challenge Schenck in 2012 — insurance reform, economic development and the need for more technical education — spurred her this time.

"It's important to have someone to run for the seat who knows the issues and can represent the county as an advocate and not be beholden to any political party," Rocco said.

The move sets up a primary race with David Welch, who filed as a Democrat in October. Welch, 49, is a residential counselor at a mental health center and president of the Hernando chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

A permanent resident of Hernando since 1993, Rocco served one term on the County Commission from 2006 to 2010 and has been active in a variety of community groups. Her 2012 bid was her first for state office. She moved automatically to the general election after no other Democrat filed, and Schenck won handily with more than 55 percent of the vote.

Blaise Ingoglia, a 43-year-old Spring Hill home builder, was the only Republican in the race as of Friday. As chairman of the Hernando Republican Executive Committee and vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, Ingoglia will be a formidable opponent in a district that favors a Republican. His latest campaign report shows he has raised nearly $130,000, and he has racked up a stack of endorsements from prominent Republicans throughout the state.

Hernando Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Steve Zeledon said Rocco's entry into the race bodes well for the party.

"Now we've got two solid candidates," Zeledon said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

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