Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando sheriff to seek congressional seat as Ginny Brown-Waite bows out

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, has held the seat since 2002. She approached Richard Nugent about running for her seat.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2009)

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, has held the seat since 2002. She approached Richard Nugent about running for her seat.

BROOKSVILLE — U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite announced Friday that health problems are forcing her to drop her re-election bid for the seat she has held for eight years. Her proxy: Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent.

Nugent, 58, qualified Friday to run for the 5th District seat just before the noon deadline on the last day of the qualifying period and paid the $10,440 filing fee. Eleven minutes after the deadline, Brown-Waite's chief of staff sent out the news that she would not be running and had encouraged Nugent to take her place.

The substance and the timing of the surprise announcements angered Republicans who said they would have considered running had they known that the Brooksville Republican was stepping down.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, lives just outside the District 5 boundary but said he would have considered entering the race.

"It was certainly something I would have looked at," he said.

He called Brown-Waite's tactics questionable.

"She has every right to (tap Nugent),'' he said. "But I just think the people should have had an opportunity to have more participants in the race."

"This is another example of the Republican Party cutting its own throat,'' said Public Service Commission Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano, adding that she believes that she and Fasano were the targets of the surprise announcements.

Argenziano formerly held state Senate and House seats included in Brown-Waite's congressional district, and, when she heard two weeks ago that Brown-Waite was considering retiring, she inquired about the seat. She was approached by a Republican Party official and asked whether she would challenge state Democratic U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd instead, she said.

"I knew something was up,'' she said.

Brown-Waite's statement avoided mention of her strategy, focusing on her health concerns.

"As I have prepared for my campaign, I have been troubled by persistent health problems and have come to the disappointing and sad conclusion that I cannot run for re-election," she said.

"There are simply too many unresolved issues around my health and my pancreas in particular. As of this morning, my doctors are still undecided about what course to pursue next for my treatments."

Her husband, Harvey Waite, died Aug. 19, 2008, at age 68 after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She recently announced her engagement to Anthony "Tony" Selvaggio, a Pennsylvania business owner.

The move sets up a two-way Republican primary in August between Nugent and Jason Sager, a 36-year-old Brooksville Republican who is closely aligned with the tea party movement. The winner will oppose Jim Piccillo, 36, of Land O'Lakes, the only Democrat to qualify.

Brown-Waite, 66, apparently hatched the plan weeks ago. Nugent said she called him at his Spring Hill home on March 31 — his 35th wedding anniversary — and asked him to consider a bid.

"You could have knocked me over with a feather," Nugent said.

Nugent, who was elected sheriff in 2000 and has two years left in his current four-year term, told her he'd think about it. On Saturday, Nugent met with Brown-Waite and told her he was game.

"My wife questioned me: 'Do you think you can make a difference and have a positive influence on Washington?' " he recalled. "I hadn't thought about it in those terms, but as we talked it became obvious I had those feelings."

Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells said he knew of several people — including himself — who might have run. Instead, he said, Brown-Waite "effectively slammed the door in the face of several top-notch candidates."

Lake County Republican Chairman Joseph Rudderow said he trusts Brown-Waite's strategy.

"Ginny is a square shooter and always has been," he said. "She doesn't have a deceptive bone in her body."

Hernando Republican Chairman Blaise Ingoglia didn't know about Brown-Waite's move until told by the Times.

"It is what it is, and we have to press on and get Republicans elected," he said.

Brown-Waite won the seat in 2002 in a narrow victory over Democrat Karen Thurman after a Republican-dominated Legislature redrew the district lines to favor a GOP candidate.

She built a reputation as an advocate for veterans and senior issues and has won re-election with ease, facing no challenges from within her own party and defeating Democratic nominees.

Sager, an unemployed former audio visual technician who has taken to full-time campaigning, called Nugent "the new establishment candidate."

Piccillo, a small business consultant, said he fielded some two dozen calls within a couple of hours after Brown-Waite's announcement. One, he said, was from the finance chairman of the Democratic National Convention.

"Let's just say, if this was a car, we just went from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds," Piccillo said.

Times staff writers John Frank, Alex Leary and Jodie Tillman, Miami Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas and Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

FAST FACTS

Richard Nugent

Richard Nugent, 58, enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 18 and served six years in the Illinois National Guard and then a dozen years as a police officer in a Chicago suburb. He later served as a deputy sheriff in Hernando County and won his first term as sheriff in 2000. His wife, Wendy, is a teacher for the Hernando County school system. All three of the couple's sons are officers in the Army.

Hernando sheriff to seek congressional seat as Ginny Brown-Waite bows out 04/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 30, 2010 10:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  2. Is Ed Sheeran sexy? An investigation

    Music & Concerts

    Start with the guitar. Guitars are sexy, right? Historically, anytime anyone straps on a guitar, it's only a matter of time before they come running.

    Ed Sheeran, who sold out three shows at Madison Square Garden last year, opened for Taylor Swift’s “Red” tour and now has a new album called “x” (as in multiply), at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, June 14, 2014.  ?  I don?  t look like your typical pop star,?   says the pint-size 23-year-old British folk singer with a mop of red hair and an unassuming mien. ?  I don?  t sing songs like your typical pop star.” (Jesse Dittmar/The New York Times) -- PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE - ONLINE OR IN PRINT - BEFORE JUNE 22, 2014.
  3. Dates and itinerary for Tampa City Council trip to Cuba finalized

    Local

    TAMPA — The dates are set and the itinerary is largely finalized for the Tampa City Council's first official trip to Cuba since the Cuban Revolution.

    Tampa City Council Chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin will be a part of the city council delegation to Cuba this October. [Credit: City of Tampa]
  4. Survey: Few consumers shop for lower prices on health care

    Health

    Despite having more financial "skin in the game" than ever, many consumers don't make any attempt to compare prices for health care services, a newly released study found.

    Photo illustration. [istockphoto.com]
  5. And the most-searched NFL player in Florida is ...

    Bucs

    The Bucs just faced the Jacksonville Jaguars in preseason, and open their 2017 season at the Miami Dolphins. So with the state's NFL competition ahead of and just behind the Bucs, who do you think is the NFL player most searched on Google by Floridians?

    Fans react with excitement moments after the Bucs announce their first-round pick at the team's 2016 NFL draft party. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]