BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville engineer Nick Nicholson has joined the crowded race for the Hernando County Commission seat now held by Jeff Stabins.
Nicholson, a Republican, prequalified for the District 1 seat Wednesday, a day after another Republican in the race claimed that Nicholson's candidacy was part of a conspiracy between Nicholson and Stabins.
Candidate Michael Burmann told the Tampa Bay Times that Nicholson and Stabins were attempting to do one of two things: Either Stabins was going to drop out of the race and endorse Nicholson, or the two were attempting to split the vote in the Republican primary, which will be on Aug. 14. The general election is on Nov. 6.
With Nicholson entering the race, he is likely to draw support from the home builders with whom he works, the same constituents that have backed Burmann in the past, Burmann said. Burmann works as a home inspector.
"He'd draw votes from me,'' Burmann said.
Nicholson and Stabins were too close as friends to run against one another, Burmann insisted. Not only that, but Nicholson has financially backed Stabins as a candidate in the past.
Stabins said Burmann's thought process was flawed.
"I think the guy is a nut for suggesting conspiracy,'' Stabins said Wednesday. "This is old-school Burmann. This is all his two-headed snake stuff that we saw from him in 2008. The guy is unfit for public office.''
Stabins, who has waffled on his re-election plans, said he is a candidate and noted that on Tuesday he filed his most recent campaign contribution report with the supervisor of elections. He has raised approximately $4,000 toward his re-election bid.
"Yes, I've known Nick Nicholson for over 20 years,'' Stabins said. "He is a competent professional who will be a very viable candidate for the seat.''
Stabins said he supports anyone's effort to run for public office and noted that he even made a point during the redrawing of commission districts several months ago to make sure that all of the announced candidates for his seat were in the newly drawn district.
Stabins lashed out at Burmann, saying, "I'm not impressed with his credentials and am very disappointed that he has slithered into the gutter this early in the race.''
Nicholson responded to Burmann's allegations saying that he is running for the seat because he wants to give back to the community and he believes his education, including a master's degree in civil engineering and a master of business administration, would be useful on the commission.
He also acknowledged that he has known Stabins a long time and that Stabins, a former teacher, tutored his two children.
"I entered this race because I want to serve the community,'' Nicholson said. "I am not playing a game here. This is very serious. I feel I can do a great job."
Nicholson, 65, is the owner of Nicholson Engineering Associates. Born in Ohio, he has been a resident of Hernando County since 1986. He served for seven years on the county's Planning and Zoning Commission, is chairman of the Hernando Waterway Restoration Council and serves on the Florida Building Commission.
He said he is interested in using his experience to help the county solve its budget issues, focus on filling existing subdivisions, make wise decisions on infrastructure and continue to streamline the process of issuing permits.
Burmann said he can take the criticism from Stabins about his candidacy, but the "two-headed snake" reference offended him.
"I don't think my track record earns me that label,'' Burmann said. "This name-calling thing is immature.''
In addition to Stabins, Burmann and Nicholson, Regina Werder-McGuire has prequalified for the Republican primary. Democrat Arlene Glantz and Joseph Swilley, an independent, have also prequalified.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.