Friday, April 20, 2018
Politics

Hernando politicians will be known by company they keep

They ought to be ashamed.

I'm talking about county commissioners Jim Adkins, Wayne Dukes, and Nick Nicholson.

I mean the new Republican constitutional officers, the ones I thought knew better: Tax Collector Sally Daniel, Property Appraiser John Emerson, Clerk of Circuit Court Don Barbee.

I'm referring, especially, to commission Chairman David Russell, who lent his hard-earned credibility to a candidate with a severe shortage of it, Blaise Ingoglia.

"He has time and again demonstrated the ability to win over detractors and turn them into allies," Russell said on Wednesday, setting up Ingoglia's announcement of his candidacy for the state House of Representatives.

To portray Ingoglia as some sort of uniter is nonsense. To serve as the main prop on Ingolgia's stage is a lasting black mark.

Ingoglia needed this show. He needed it to be first. He needed to create the impression that he has a monopoly on Republican support and that any party member who challenges him will have to do it alone.

He needed that line of Republican officialdom — that wall — because vulnerable people always need walls.

I won't call Ingoglia what I think he really is because it could get me in trouble. I'll just tell you what the Republican Party will find when they start polling voters in the Hernando County district Ingoglia wants to represent:

He has a lot of negatives.

Voters are aware of the role of speculative home-building in bringing down the economy, and that in this county nobody had more to do with it than Ingoglia. He didn't just agree to sell homes to speculators, he targeted them — went on out-of-town trips to pitch his houses as investments, not homes, at a time when he was Hernando's biggest builder.

But he was not even close to being "one of the largest" in Florida, which was part of a pack of suspect statements in his sales pitches.

There was more misleading talk in the Government Gone Wild seminars that made his name and fanned another destructive trend — the idea that public employment is somehow shameful, that the public sector needs to be attacked.

If we suspected this equalled a flat-out disrespect for government he has proved it by not paying property taxes on his luxurious home in Spring Hill.

Taxes aren't just money. They are envelopes dropped in the collection plate, a signal of how highly you value an institution. And it seems pretty basic that church members who don't contribute don't get to be deacons.

The nerve of Ingoglia to think this rule doesn't apply to him is another negative. He's arrogant but very smart, people have told me. Now, I believe, more of them will see it the other way around.

Especially because he thinks he can pass this whole tax thing off as an oversight, one that's no big deal now that he's rushed down to the courthouse to pay his debt.

He thinks people will buy the idea that his mail box was stuffed with notices of back taxes, that tax certificates for his property were sold at courthouse auctions, that his name was published in a list of delinquent property owners and he just didn't notice.

Russell backed him up on this, too, which is another embarrassment, though I think I know why he did it. And I think I know why all those other Republican officials stood with Ingoglia on Wednesday.

Money and connections are supposed to mean everything. You can't be too partisan.

It's been a winning Republican formula for a while now and Ingoglia is the perfect embodiment of it, a tea partier before there was tea party, the chairman of the county's Republican Executive Committee and the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. At least until the party starts doing those polls, he's the obvious candidate to receive its backing and money.

This is the way things work, but it's not working. Tallahassee is a mess and voters know it.

For proof, imagine how maverick Rep. Mike Fasano would rout party foot soldier Rep. Rob Schenck in a hypothetical primary. On the county level, think how Russell would crush a tea partier such as Dukes.

Maybe, by choosing Russell to introduce him, Ingoglia showed that he also believes this principal — that lasting power is built on honesty and moderation.

It's a shame Russell didn't stick to it himself.

Follow Dan DeWitt on Twitter: @ddewitttimes.

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