Friday, December 15, 2017
Politics

Voters grant new terms to three Pasco constitutional officers

It was a good night for three of Pasco County's constitutional officers, including the lone countywide Democrat, who all clinched new terms Tuesday.

Mike Olson, 67, won an ninth term as the county's tax collector over Ed Blommel, a 63-year-old retired Tampa Electric Co. executive who gave Olson his first GOP challenge in 16 years.

Olson could not be reached for comment, but he held a commanding lead Tuesday night with about 68 percent of the vote, with just a handful of precincts out.

Olson and Blommel's main policy difference centered on regional one-stop centers that would include closed courses to give driver's license road tests. Olson said the county-owned buildings were necessary for safety. Blommel said the county should lease more strip centers to be nimble and save money.

Clerk of Court Paula O'Neil, 56, cruised to victory against no-party challenger Roberta Cutting, 53, with nearly 76 percent of the vote.

"I'm just so grateful to voters and so honored to continue to be the clerk, and I look forward to bringing us further into the electronic age," said O'Neil, a Republican seeking her second term.

Cutting, who was briefly an intern in the clerk's office, accused O'Neil of sabotaging her career and failing to grant her public records requests.

Property Appraiser Mike Wells, 65, a Republican, won a fifth and what he says will be a final term, defeating Democrat Allison Newlon, a 42-year-old San Antonio Realtor.

Early unofficial returns showed Wells leading Newlon with about 67 percent of the vote.

"I'd like to thank my friends over the years," Wells said. "You accumulate a lot of friends along the way, and that's the real reward of public office." He said he plans to spend his last term "taking the office to the next level."

"When I leave it will be the finest Property Appraiser's Office in the state of Florida," he said.

During the campaign, Wells pointed to the property appraiser's website, which has drawn 1.9 million unique visitors since it was created in 1999. He said over the years, more information has been available online and property owners are able to do more transactions there, such as apply for homestead exemptions.

Wells expects to save $10,000 to $20,000 with the service. He says over the years he has saved taxpayers money and expects to return more than $700,000 to the county this year. He also has downsized the office from 72 positions to 47.

Wells expects that trend to continue as technology improves.

Wells also said he has met with County Administrator John Gallagher to discuss returning office space from the appraiser's location on Little Road.

Comments
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Updated: 6 hours ago
William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

Ideological divides in Florida’s Republican attorney general primary race are producing some early negative campaigning, with a strong Tampa Bay area flavor.State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, one of four candidates, has attacked the early frontrunn...
Published: 12/14/17
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Published: 12/13/17
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Published: 12/13/17
Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama enough to spur an automatic recount, the state’s election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore...
Published: 12/13/17
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Published: 12/13/17
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Published: 12/12/17