BROOKSVILLE — The drama of the 2011 mid-term elections got an early start as soon as the qualifying date arrived in May and continued throughout the campaign season.
U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, who had spent eight years in Washington, announced just 11 minutes after the qualifying deadline had passed that she would not seek another term due to health concerns.
Just minutes before the deadline, surprise candidate Sheriff Richard Nugent filed to run for the District 5 Congressional seat. Brown-Waite had approached him about making that move.
This set off a debate about the appropriateness of Brown-Waite picking her successor and quick criticism from other local officials who were interested in the job but didn't run because Brown-Waite was prequalified to seek another term.
Nugent still faced a challenge in the primary from Jason Sager, and in the general election by Democrat Jim Piccillo, but Nugent pulled off an easy victory in each case.
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The race for the District 44 seat in the State House pitting incumbent Republican Robert Schenck against former county commissioner Democrat Diane Rowden got ugly soon after she bested challengers Jay Thompson and perennial candidate David Werder in the primary.
Rowden came out swinging, accusing Schenck of raising fees, voting for off-shore drilling, supporting the so-called Taj Mahal, the opulent new courthouse built in Tallahassee, and generally not representing his constituents.
Schenck countered that Rowden was a tax-and-spend Democrat and he and his supporters peppered the airwaves and mailboxes with commercials and flyers that dredged up her Sunshine Law violation from 1993.
Schenck, like so many of his fellow Republican house members, was sent back to Tallahassee by voters.
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The Republican trend was also demonstrated in the District 2 County Commission race in the election. While incumbent Democrat Rose Rocco had no opposition among Democrats, there were three Republicans who lined up against her, retired Air Force and civil service worker Wayne Dukes, a retired government worker from New Jersey William Kingeter and Ty Mullis, who had worked most recently as an operations manager.
Dukes won the primary and went on to beat Rocco and win a seat on the commission making the body totally Republican.
Dave Russell, seeking his second term on the County Commission, won it with no opposition.
In the race for three seats on the School Board, voters returned two to their positions but the third was a cliffhanger with a different outcome.
John Sweeney won a second term on the board besting political newcomer Nilsa Colon-Toro in District 1. In District 3, Dianne Bonfield won her second term over challenger Keane Chapman. The primary for District 5 pitted incumbent Sandra Nicholson against challengers Michael Bainum and Cynthia Moore.
The primary knocked Bainum out of contention but in the general election, a close vote prompted a recount. In the end, Moore, a former teacher and principal, bested Nicholson by 38 votes.
A recount was also required in the race for two seats on the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District board. Sherry Adler won without a challenge but it took a recount to determine that Ken Fagan had the seat over "Rusty" Guy Amore.
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Brooksville's city election was easiest of all.
While the city's former public works director Emory Pierce chose to run against then-Mayor Lara Bradburn, at the last minute when it became clear that Richard Lewis was not seeking another term, Bradburn jumped in to run for his seat.
By the time the deadline for filing had passed, Bradburn, Pierce and members Frankie Burnett and Joe Bernardini were elected without opposition.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.