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On day after elections, time to decide what happens next

Bob Nese greets voters Tuesday at precincts at Spring Hill United Church of Christ Fellowship. Turnout was higher than expected.

CHRIS PRICE | Special to the Times

Bob Nese greets voters Tuesday at precincts at Spring Hill United Church of Christ Fellowship. Turnout was higher than expected.

BROOKSVILLE — There wasn't much glamor in Wayne Dukes' first day after getting elected to the Hernando County Commission.

He was busy gathering up campaign signs all across the county, adding to the nearly 350 miles he has logged in the last several days. He was frustrated that so many of the signs had already disappeared, but Dukes said he felt like the job had to be finished.

"I won't really feel like I've won the election until I'm done with this,'' said Dukes, who took nearly 60 percent of the vote Tuesday, ousting the only Democrat on the board, Rose Rocco.

While Dukes said he had not fully developed a game plan for the next few days, he said he has supporters to thank and appointments to make with county staffers before he takes office Nov. 16.

At 48.39 percent, the county's overall general election voter turnout was markedly higher than the 35 to 40 percent that Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams predicted. That was also a slight increase over the turnout from the last midterm election, which was 47.85 percent in 2006.

Also among the big winners was Republican Robert Schenck with nearly 60 percent of the vote over Democrat Diane Rowden. Schenck said his track record of shrinking government, a common theme among Republicans during these lean economic times, helped win him his third term in the District 44 Florida House seat.

Both Rocco and Rowden said the Republican wave had taken its toll on their campaigns.

"I got caught up in this whole national brouhaha from the Republicans,'' Rowden said.

"I was surprised at the numbers,'' Rocco said. "But then when you look at the Republican push out there, it was pretty much across the board.''

Rocco said she had no regrets about her time on the board and no hard feelings about the outcome of the campaign.

"I'm very proud of my accomplishments as a commissioner. I have done my best,'' she said. "Now we have a five member Republican board and all men. Let's see what they do.''

She said she was concerned about the future of some of the projects that she had spearheaded, such as the community initiatives both in south Brooksville and in Hernando Beach as well as a fledgling group just getting started in Ridge Manor.

While she plans to remain active in the community, Rocco said she first plans a bit of rest. "Peter (Rocco's husband) and I are going to take a little bit of a break and relax and think about what I can do next,'' she said.

Rowden was also introspective about her plans. She planned to continue working with some of her favorite community groups, such as People Helping People and the Crescent Clinic.

Still stinging from the negative campaign advertisements leveled against her, Rowden spent her morning scrubbing away the visual cues of the election. She took her hair dryer to the special election wrap on her Smart car and removed all the advertising of her political campaign.

"This was my morning therapy,'' she called it.

Rowden said that whatever she has done in the community was done as an effort to help people and she worried about how they would fare under the new wave of Republican officials.

"If anything, I cry for the people because they aren't going to have true representation. They're not going to have anyone to look after their needs,'' she said.

While Rowden and Rocco could each only manage 40 percent of the vote in their races on Tuesday, the proposed universal and automated garbage collection system couldn't even get that much. Less than a third of the county's voters were in favor of the plan in the nonbinding referendum.

County officials plan to scrutinize precinct-by-precinct information on that vote to determine if a pilot project of the system should be put in place in a particular, supportive neighborhood. Those detailed precinct reports were not available Wednesday.

The once-per-week-each garbage, recycling and yard waste plan was explored because haulers have said it is the most efficient system and officials figured it could save residents money.

Changes in services and fees for garbage collection are possible next year after new franchise agreements with haulers are finalized. County commissioners were hopeful that the vote would give them the information they need to shape future garbage collection services.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

On day after elections, time to decide what happens next 11/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 8:54pm]

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