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Hernando commissioner to seek New York congressional seat

BROOKSVILLE — It turns out that Jeff Stabins is running for office again, only not for a third term on the Hernando County Commission.

And not even in the state of Florida.

Stabins announced Wednesday that he will resign his commission seat by the spring so he can run next year for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York's 23rd District, what is known as the North Country District.

The district, which sprawls from Lake Ontario in the west to the Vermont border in the east, is now represented by Democrat Bill Owens.

The announcement is the latest in a tumultuous series of events in recent months for Stabins. He has been known to break into song at board meetings or simply get up and wander the room. His dog Rusty has his own blog and has been known to dream about events and people oddly similar to real Hernando County events and personalities.

Stabins has tried unsuccessfully to get his own show on Government Broadcasting. And he pulled a stunt that had some in the audience at a board meeting believing a cryptic note he sent explaining his absence meant that he had harmed himself. He later apologized.

In June, County Commission Chairman Jim Adkins filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics over employees' concerns including that Stabins had used the f-word in front of the employees.

Those allegations came out of another Stabins project, this time having county workers produce a DVD designed to focus on how poorly their boss, County Administrator David Hamilton, has performed his job.

Now, Stabins said, he has a clear idea of what he needs to do.

"My dream as a boy growing up in Watertown was to one day be elected a Republican congressman serving in Washington, D.C.,'' Stabins said in a release to the St. Petersburg Times.

Involved in politics since grade school, Stabins wrote, "I loved the game of politics from early on. It is in my blood.''

Stabins, 51, came to Hernando County when he was 27 and was hired to teach government and history at Hernando High School. He retired from the school district several years ago. Stabins also served in the Florida House from 1992 through 1998.

The latest twist comes on the heels of Stabins' April announcement that he would not seek another term on the commission.

"I was tired of tilting at windmills and felt ineffective at persuading my Republican colleagues in Brooksville to see things in my more moderate way,'' he wrote.

About that time, he found what he terms his "dream house" in Sacketts Harbor, N.Y., beside a battlefield where he said his great-grandfather's great-grandfather served as a sergeant fighting the British in the War of 1812.

He bought the house earlier this summer and has been commuting between Florida and New York ever since, flying in to attend commission meetings and take care of constituents and then returning to New York.

The commute has raised the ire of some constituents, most notably Elgin Boulevard resident Steven Langone, who has attended the last two County Commission meetings blasting Stabins and demanding his ouster.

At Tuesday's meeting, Stabins left the chambers as Langone shouted from the microphone demanding that he be brought back to face him and questioning why the commission was paying the salary of a member who wasn't earning it.

"He's a coward. He's a coward,'' Langone said. "We don't need cowards running this county.''

Adkins told Langone that he could not compel a fellow commissioner to be present in the chambers.

On Wednesday, Stabins defended his frequent commutes by saying that he was serving his constituents as he always has, just from a distance.

As for Langone's complaints of being ignored, Stabins said, "I know that I have a clean conscience. … I have been at Mr. Langone's house on numerous occasions'' dealing with a variety of issues that have arisen over the Elgin Boulevard widening project.

"Mr. Langone is an impossible individual to placate,'' he said. "I'm a human being and I'm sick and tired of his annoying behavior.''

He noted he had more than 170,000 other constituents he would rather serve.

Stabins also acknowledged that he was leaving his Hernando County constituents in a lurch when he resigns before the end of his term but he said "I've dedicated the last 21 years of my life serving in public office and I'm going to fall short by six months.''

He said he wanted to stay in office as long as possible so that District 1 had a commissioner.

"The governor is not likely to appoint anyone soon," Stabins said. "The governor does not have a track record of making quick appointments, not that I would be too thrilled with who he would appoint anyway.''

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

Hernando commissioner to seek New York congressional seat 08/24/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 7:49pm]
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