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Hernando Commissioner Jeff Stabins is leaving GOP and won't seek re-election

BROOKSVILLE — After a lifetime as a registered Republican, county Commissioner Jeff Stabins dropped out of the party Tuesday and announced for a second time that he would not seek a third term on the commission.

In his letter to the elections office confirming he was not going to run, Stabins said his candidacy for the District 1 commission seat was to end "effective immediately and this time I mean it.''

Stabins, 52, said he was ready for a break.

"I dropped my party affiliation and will serve out the rest of my term and take a sabbatical from Hernando County politics and to write my dog's memoirs,'' he said, referring to his Labrador Rusty, which for a time "wrote" a blog that mirrored activities in local politics.

Stabins said he grew apart from the philosophy of the Republican Party and wasn't going to become a Democrat, opting for no party designation.

"For a long time, I was discouraged and disillusioned by the leadership of the Republican Party moving more and more to the right-wing fringe and I think it's a shame,'' he said. "I think the leadership in Washington and Tallahassee and Brooksville is doing their darnedest to destroy the Grand Old Party and I'm sick and tired of being a part of it.''

A retired schoolteacher, Stabins said, "I've always been a student of history and the Republicans have never been more out of touch with the American people on a myriad of issues from taxation to social issues.''

Democrats have issues, too, he said, adding: "Both parties have become polarized, but ours is worse.''

Stabins first started campaigning for a third four-year term in January 2011 and began collecting signature cards. Then, that April, he announced he was dropping out of the race, saying he was tired of "tilting at windmills" and that he felt he was not making headway on issues.

He announced he was exploring a run for a congressional seat in upstate New York, where he had bought a summer home. But he decided to drop that bid and again announced plans to run for another term in Hernando.

Candidates have piled up to run for the seat, and Stabins said Tuesday he had no intention of endorsing any of them. Having no party affiliation, he will not be able to vote in partisan races in the August primary.

Stabins said he will leave it to others to determine what his legacy as a county commissioner will be.

"I'm very grateful for the support I've gotten from 90 percent of the people in the county. It's the 10 percent or less that just wore me down. I'm tired of dealing with their bulls---,'' he said. "I've done my best. It's been a job. I've been teaching and politicking for 25 years straight in this county, and I need a break.''

The field of prequalified candidates for the District 1 seat now includes four Republicans — Michael Burmann, Richard Matassa, Nicholas Nicholson and Regina Werder-McGuire — Democrat Arlene Glantz and Joseph Swilley, an independent.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando Commissioner Jeff Stabins is leaving GOP and won't seek re-election 05/08/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 8:09pm]
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