Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

GOP primary for Pasco school superintendent closed by write-in candidacy

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County Democrats and independent voters won't get a say in the district's hotly contested race for school superintendent after all.

Former county Commissioner Ed Collins announced his write-in candidacy for the post on Monday, limiting the Aug. 14 primary to Republicans only.

No other party has yet put forth a candidate.

"I'm a firm believer that Republican primaries should be reserved for Republican voters," said Collins, who served as vice chairman of the county Republican Executive Committee in the late 1980s.

He rejected any thought that his action does a disservice to voters who aren't in the party.

"They were deprived by . . . the Democratic Executive Committee of Pasco County," he said. "They conceded the election to Republicans by not fielding a candidate."

Some early polling conducted by county political leaders suggest that Collins' move could hurt incumbent superintendent Heather Fiorentino more than her opponents.

Those polls show Fiorentino lagging behind challenger Kurt Browning, the county's former longtime election supervisor, by double digits among most likely Republican primary voters.

A third candidate, Moon Lake construction worker Ken Benson, barely registered attention in the battle with the other two political heavyweights.

Fiorentino tried to sound a positive note in the face of the latest twist in her bid for a third term.

"A race is a race," she said. "I always run each race like I'm 20 points behind, and I work very hard to get the votes I receive."

She stressed the district's strong performance on academic indicators, such as this year's FCAT testing and graduation rate, as evidence of her worthiness for re-election.

"I have a proven record to stand on," Fiorentino said. "My concern is with all the people running, I'm the only person with an educational background. It worries me for the system."

Browning said closing the primary would not change his strategy. He intended to continue running as someone with a strong leadership record, and the desire to restore what he considered the district's lost luster.

He has been critical of employee morale and middle-of-the-road academic outcomes as compared to the rest of the state.

"I believe I am the one that can provide the leadership to get the district back on track," said Browning, who resigned as Florida secretary of state this past spring.

He predicted that many Democrats will change their party registration before the July 16 deadline in order to participate in the primary.

Benson, a political newcomer, said the closed primary would not affect his long shot effort to upend the more established county leaders.

"I'm going to have our signs infiltrate this county," he said. "My whole basis is to put prayer back in school, and to run it honestly."

Each of the candidates and their key backers said they had nothing to do with bringing Collins into the race. Collins confirmed that his sole motivation was to close the primary. Earlier this spring, Republican leaders and the candidates said they did not plan to seek a write-in candidate for this purpose.

Collins called both Browning and Fiorentino "qualified people" whom he has known for years. He figured that whichever one wins the Republican primary will become the superintendent.

"After the primary, that race is over," Collins said.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. Visit the Gradebook at for more education news.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The Republican primary is Aug. 14. The original version of this article gave an incorrect date.

GOP primary for Pasco school superintendent closed by write-in candidacy 06/05/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 3:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Controversial landfill site could be rechristened as industrial recruiting land in Pasco

    Economic Development

    The east Pasco property of Angelo's Aggregate Materials, which failed to obtain a state environmental permit to be developed as a garbage landfill, is being studied as a potential 1,000-acre mega site for industrial recruitment.

  2. Joe Henderson: At son's wedding, memories of child-rearing build to a perfect moment


    On a secluded beach known as Hawksnest on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a bride-to-be named Heather McNeill hurried along a wooded path to meet the man she was about to marry.

    Heather McNeill married fellow Strawberry Crest High teacher Ben Henderson on a secluded beach in the U.S. Virgin Islands. "They wanted something totally theirs," says Ben's dad Joe Henderson. "I think they had their parents in mind, as well." [Courtesy of Henderson family]
  3. Forecast: Near record-high temperatures, minimal rain in store for Tampa Bay


    Tampa Bay residents can expect a significantly hot Wednesday — possibly record-breaking — and a small chance of pop up showers.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  4. Marriott opening new hotel on Clearwater Beach


    CLEARWATER BEACH — A dual-branded Marriott hotel with a tongue-twister name is opening on Clearwater Beach in August. The Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will have 255 suites total, connected by a lobby.

    A dual-branded Marriott hotel called the Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will open in August in Clearwater Beach. Pictured is a rendering.
[Courtesy of Hayworth PR]