BROOKSVILLE — The political season begins in earnest this week as candidates for national, state and local races file formal papers and pay fees, if required, to get on the ballot for the August primary and November general elections.
Some of Hernando County's local races are already teeming with hopefuls who pre-filed to run for positions and who spent months begging for signatures from registered voters to qualify for office using petition cards.
Formal qualifying runs from noon Monday to noon Friday.
The county's five constitutional officers are on the ballot this year, and, for the first time in recent memory, only one of the races includes an incumbent — Sheriff Al Nienhuis, who was appointed by the governor in 2011.
Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai, Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek, Tax Collector Juanita Sikes and Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams are all retiring.
Three seats on the County Commission, two on the School Board and three on the Brooksville City Council will also be on the ballot this year.
Party leaders say they are pleased with their candidates and with the support they are seeing for them in the community.
"I think that the crop of Republican candidates is extremely strong,'' said Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Hernando County Republican Executive Committee.
"They're out there raising funds, they have been talking to the community, attending a lot of events, doing everything that they're supposed to be doing'' to get out their message, Ingoglia said.
Most of the pre-qualified candidates are Republicans.
Steve Zeledon, who heads the county's Democratic Executive Committee, said "there may not be many (Democratic candidates), but they're people of quality.''
He said he has seen a resurgence of grass roots enthusiasm among Democrats.
"I think we've been unified because of a feeling of the basic unfairness of the way things are developing,'' he said. "Our elections have become like auctions'' because of the amounts of money flowing in to support candidates.
Zeledon said he hoped that by taking the high road to talk about issues rather than focus on attacks, Democratic candidates will attract more voters.
Candidates do not have to pre-qualify in order to qualify for the ballot, so there is always the possibility that the lineup of candidates could change by noon Friday.
No one has recently asked for a qualifying packet to prepare for a run at the last minute, according to Elizabeth Townsend, operations manager for the supervisor of elections.
"Someone can still get it all done during the week of qualifying,'' she said. "One never knows.''
Most of the candidates who have pre-qualified did so by gathering the signatures of enough registered voters to avoid paying the filing fee. Those who did not must pay the fee in order to qualify.
There is no petition process for Brooksville City Council candidates. They must pay the filing fee to appear on the ballot.
The pre-qualified candidates are
County Commission District 1
Michael Burmann, Republican, by petition
Arlene Glantz, Democrat, by petition
Richard Matassa, Republican, by petition
Nicholas Nicholson, Republican
Joseph Swilley, independent
Regina Werder-McGuire, Republican, by petition
County Commission District 3
Timothy Alexander, no party affiliation
John Druzbick, Republican, by petition (incumbent
Tanya Marsh, no party affiliation, write-in; no fee required
Jason Sager, Republican, by petition
Greg Sheldon, no party affiliation, by petition
County Commission District 5
Jim Adkins, Republican, by petition (incumbent)
Michael Barsanti, Republican
Paul Douglas, no party affiliation
Ramon Gutierrez, Democrat, by petition
School Board District 2 (nonpartisan)
Matthew Foreman (incumbent)
William Kingeter, by petition
School Board District 4 (nonpartisan)
Michael Gordon, by petition
Gus Guadagnino, by petition
Helen Villafane, by petition
James "Eddie" McConnell, Democrat, by petition
Al Nienhuis, Republican, by petition (incumbent)
Nicholas Piccinich, Democrat
Bobby Sullivan, Republican, by petition
Clerk of the circuit court
Donald Barbee, Republican, by petition
John Emerson, Republican, by petition
James Williams, Republican, by petition
Sally Daniel, Republican, by petition
Supervisor of elections
Shirley Anderson, Republican, by petition
Mark Caskie, Republican, by petition
Elizabeth Townsend, Democrat, by petition
Jason Yungmann, Republican, by petition
Brooksville City Council Seat 2 (nonpartisan)
No pre-qualified candidates
Brooksville City Council Seat 3 (nonpartisan)
Joe Johnston III (incumbent)
Brooksville City Council Seat 4
Vivian "Vi" Coogler
Kevin Hohn (incumbent)
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.