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Pasco County Commission: Pair of incumbents defeated

BROOKSVILLE — Anti-incumbent anger in Hernando County cost two of three county commissioners on the ballot their jobs in Tuesday's election.

Voters ousted District 3 Commissioner Diane Rowden and District 5 Commissioner Chris Kingsley, both two-term Democrats, replacing them with Republicans John Druzbick and James Adkins, respectively.

The sole incumbent to survive, Republican Jeff Stabins in District 1, defeated Democrat Ramon Gutierrez.

The incumbents have faced harsh attacks this election season from various groups angry over property taxes that soared in recent years.

Druzbick, 57, a local businessman and former School Board member, has been an advocate of zero-based budgeting, shared purchasing by governmental entities and reducing the number of county consultants.

Druzbick said he believes voters could relate to the message that commissioners should have acted sooner and trimmed tax rates and scaled back budgets.

"It's ironic," Druzbick said. "That theme was coming from both parties. I think people wanted a change."

Rowden, 59, defended her record of tax cutting and touted her staunch stand on slow growth rather than out-of-control development.

Tuesday night she struggled to maintain her composure. "I really love my job. I really did. I love the people of this community. I know so many people appreciated the things that I do for them," Rowden said.

In the District 5 race, Adkins won with a narrow margin over Kingsley. A former Brooksville fire chief, Adkins, 59, built his platform on lower taxes, less government and more freedom.

"It's great," he said after the vote count. "I guarantee that I'll be working with the citizens and for the citizens."

Kingsley, 52, who focused on his support of county property tax cuts, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Stabins won by a substantial margin against his challenger, Democrat Ramon Gutierrez, a mortgage broker and real estate agent. Stabins, 48, ran on his commission record and his background, which includes six years in the Florida House and his career as a teacher.

This will be a second term on the commission for Stabins, who has been a supporter of the ongoing county government downsizing and the county property tax rate cuts made during his term.

"Obviously, I'm thrilled. It's been a tough year," Stabins said, expressing sadness for the defeat of both Rowden and Kingsley.

"There's no tougher job to defend than local county commission," he said. "Today the stars just aligned for me."

Gutierrez, 56, ran a low-key election with little funding.

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

Pasco County Commission: Pair of incumbents defeated 11/04/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 7, 2008 12:40pm]
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