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Hernando candidates filing deadline marked by last-minute maneuvering, disappointment

BROOKSVILLE -- Last-minute maneuvers and disappointments marked the local political landscape Friday as the deadline for candidates to run in the upcoming elections arrived at noon.

Perhaps the most interesting took place in the Brooksville City Council races, where the complexion of the board changed dramatically in about five minutes.

It all began when incumbent council member Richard Lewis from Seat 5 decided not to run for re-election. Shortly before the noon filing deadline, Mayor Lara Bradburn, a candidate for the Seat 4 seat, entered the Supervisor Of Elections office and changed her paperwork so that she could run unopposed for the Seat 5 seat.

That left former public works director Emory Pierce, who expected to challenge Bradburn's seat, all alone in the Seat 4 race. Both Bradburn and Pierce automatically won four-year terms on the non-partisan council.

Incumbents Joe Bernardini and Frankie Burnett also retained their council seats when no one filed to challenge them.

Pierce was fired from his city post by city manager Jennene Norman-Vacha in September for insubordination and for allowing unauthorized work to take place in the construction of the city's portion of the Good Neighbor Trail project. He has a pending unemployment benefits dispute with the city.

Although she chose to take advantage of Lewis' decision not to run, Bradburn said she would have beaten Pierce in a two-way race. Now, with Pierce on the council, which oversees Norman-Vacha's duties, she admits she has reservations over whether Pierce will be an effective council member.

"My hope is that he really wants to join the team and make the city stronger," Bradburn said. "We're making great progress right now."

Pierce did not return calls for comment.

Meanwhile, Lewis, who served 14 years on the council between 1994 and present, said his decision against a re-election bid was personal: He wants to spend more time hunting and fishing.

He said he hopes he'll be remembered as someone who worked for the city's best interests.

"Doing that didn't always make me the most popular person, but I'm fine with that," Lewis said. "I just felt it was someone else's turn."

•••

Dave Russell got a fabulous birthday present on Friday when he won a second term on the County Commission when no one filed to run against him.

No one filed by the noon qualifying deadline, but not for lack of trying.

Organic food store owner and government critic Joseph Lemieux was at the elections office just minutes before the deadline with $2,400 in cash to pay the filing fee and every intention of challenging Russell, a Republican.

But elections officials could not take his money because he had not opened a bank account, as required, and they do not accept cash.

"They couldn't do that in seven minutes,'' Lemieux said afterward. He also didn't have time to file as a write-in candidate.

"The whole system sucks,'' he said. "I don't appreciate the fact that they make it so difficult and expensive for people to run.''

Lemieux admitted that he should have known more about the process before arriving at the last minute to file. "I'll certainly be better prepared next time,'' he said.

Russell, a former state Representative and swimming pool contractor, was happy to see the deadline come and go. "Frankly, I'm elated at the prospect of serving another four years,'' he said.

He was also glad to not have to deal with campaigning for the next few months although he said he had been prepared to do that.

"This will allow me to focus on a really tough budget and not be concerned with campaigning. It will allow me to focus on the task at hand,'' he said.

•••

No last-minute surprises materialized in the non-partisan School Board races. All three incumbents – Dianne Bonfield, Sandra Nicholson and John Sweeney -- qualified to run.

Bonfield, nearing the end of her first four-year term the District 3 seat, will face Keane Chapman, a national sales manager for Alumi-Guard Inc. in Brooksville. Chapman didn't live in District 3 when he pre-filed and had to move to a new home about six miles away from his previous residence to be eligible to run.

Sweeney, in his first term in the District 1 seat, will face Nilsa Colon Toro, a former school paraprofessional who now works as a receptionist at Springstead High School.

Nicholson, in her fourth term in the District 5 seat, has two challengers: Michael Bainum is a teacher at Hernando High School, and Cynthia Moore is a former Hernando County teacher who now volunteers as a receptionist at Brooksville Elementary.

•••

The race for two open Spring Hill Fire Rescue district commission seats was pared to six candidates when Ian Norris withdrew from the race.

That leaves Ken Fagan, Guy "Rusty" Amore, Sherry Adler, Ben Edwards, Harry Chamberlain and George Biro to vie for the unpaid, four-year positions.

The winners in the November race will be the top two vote getters.

Times staff writers Barbara Behrendt and Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or at lneill@sptimes.com.

Hernando candidates filing deadline marked by last-minute maneuvering, disappointment 06/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 5, 2010 10:11pm]

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