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Clerk, tax collector, 2 City Council members win unopposed in Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — Don Barbee's wife and two daughters surprised him with a Publix sub and cupcakes at the Hernando Government Center on Friday.

It turned out to be the celebratory lunch they'd hoped for.

A former assistant state attorney who has served for the last year as director of court services and general counsel for the Hernando Clerk of Court, Barbee found out Friday he will take the office's top job in January after longtime Clerk Karen Nicolai retires. The noon deadline for another candidate to jump into the race by paying a qualifying fee came and went.

Barbee, a Republican, credits Nicolai's endorsement as the chief reason he went unopposed.

"I would like to think I'm just so intimidating, no one wanted to run against me," Barbee said. "But what I really think is this job is incredibly complicated, and it takes a unique skill set to be able to do this. I'm just thrilled it's going to be me."

Barbee isn't the only candidate to take a constitutional office without a race by the end of qualifying week.

Also winning a constitutional office without opposition was Sally Daniel, who will be Hernando County's new tax collector when her boss Juanita Sikes retires at the end of the year after serving three terms. Daniel is a 28-year employee in the Tax Collector's office and has served as chief deputy to Sikes.

Daniel was off work with her fellow Republican women Stars who were preparing for Friday evening's chili cookoff when she learned she had no opponent. "All the Stars were there and we celebrated,'' she said.

"I'd like to think that people knew that I have been there and I know what I'm doing,'' Daniel said.

Brooksville City Council members Joe Johnston Jr. in Seat 3 and Kevin Hohn, Seat 4, were also successful in earning an additional term when no one else qualified to challenge them.

The primary election is Aug. 14 and the general election is Nov. 6. These are the local races as they stand with Friday's final qualifying:

County Commission

There are three seats on the County Commission which will appear on the ballot this year.

The most crowded field is the District 1 seat. Current District 1 county Commissioner Jeff Stabins chose not to seek a third term.

Four Republicans have qualified for the race. The field includes home inspector Michael Burmann, who ran unsuccessfully for commission four years ago, engineers Richard Matassa and Nick Nicholson, and Regina Werder-McGuire, sister of perennial candidate for Congress David Werder.

Arlene Glantz, a retired attorney, is the sole Democrat in the race.

Independent Joseph Swilley, an air conditioning technician, is also seeking the seat as is Jose Luis Monegro, who joined the race on Friday as a write-in candidate.

District 3 incumbent John Druzbick faces a challenge by Jason Patrick Sager, who works as a purchasing director and who ran unsuccessfully for Congress two years ago.

Former county Commissioner Diane Rowden, the sole Democrat, was unseated by Druzbick four years ago. She is a retired flight attendant.

No-party candidate Greg Sheldon, owner of a building contractor business, is also running. Tanya Marsh qualified as a write-in candidate.

The District 5 commission race will pit incumbent Republican Jim Adkins, who is in his first term, against a last-minute Republican challenger, James "Jimmy" Lodato, a retired businessman.

Democrat Ramon Gutierrez, who ran unsuccessfully for a commission seat four years ago, is the sole Democrat in the race.

Pre-qualified candidate for District 5, Paul Douglas, former president of the local chapter of the NAACP, withdrew earlier this week. Douglas, running without party affiliation, said he dropped out because he and Gutierrez would have split the vote, negating the chance that either of them would beat Adkins.

Michael Barsanti, another announced candidate, also withdrew this week.

School Board

Two seats on the School Board will appear on the ballot.

Matt Foreman, an attorney for the Hogan Law Firm, wants to keep the District 2 seat Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to last summer after Pat Fagan resigned. Foreman will have to beat William Kingeter, a retired deputy fire chief who made an unsuccessful bid for the Hernando County Commission two years ago.

Four candidates will vie for the District 4 seat left open by James Yant, who decided not to run for re-election. They are: Michael Gordon, a semi-retired driver; Gus Guadagnino, owner of Joni Industries; Robert Neuhausen, a commodities manager and export control coordinator for Sparton Electronics in Brooksville; and Helen Villafane, a former teacher and school administrator.

School Board races are countywide and nonpartisan.

Sheriff

Appearing on a Hernando County ballot for the first time, Sheriff Al Nienhuis will face Republican Bobby Sullivan in a primary contest.

The two men know each other fairly well. Nienhuis was serving as second-in-command at the Pasco Sheriff's Office when then-Gov. Charlie Crist appointed him to the Hernando post in early 2011 after longtime Sheriff Rich Nugent won a seat to Congress. Sullivan retired from the Pasco agency in 2007 at the rank of captain.

The winner will face James "Eddie" McConnell, who worked in the Hernando Sheriff's Office more than two decades and ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2000 and 2004. McConnell worked for the Groveland Police Department from 2006 until earlier this year.

Democrat Nicholas Piccinich, owner of a general contracting company, qualified as a write-in candidate.

Property Appraiser

When 24-year Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek announced in November that he would not seek another term, he put his support behind John Emerson, his chief deputy.

Emerson, a Republican, has been with the appraiser's office for more than 24 years. He will face off in the August primary against fellow Republican James "Jamie" Williams, a roofing company owner from Brooksville.

Supervisor of Elections

After 38 years with the elections office, Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams announced her retirement late last year.

The race to fill the job will involve a three-way battle between Republican hopefuls Shirley Anderson, Mark Caskie and Jason Yungmann and Democratic qualifier Elizabeth Townsend. Anderson lost her first bid for the post to Williams in 2008.

Brooksville City Council

In Brooksville, with City Council members Hohn and Johnston slipping into their seats unopposed, voters will have just one race to decide. Frankie Burnett, who took over former councilman David Pugh's seat in 2010, attracted challenger and political newcomer Betty Erhard, who sits on the city's charter review committee.

Staff writer Logan Neill contributed to this report. Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434. Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431.

Clerk, tax collector, 2 City Council members win unopposed in Hernando 06/08/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 8, 2012 8:09pm]
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