BROOKSVILLE — With each successive election, Hernando Sheriff Richard Nugent's popularity seems to grow even stronger among his constituents. And his opponents fall further behind.
With all of the precincts counted Tuesday night, Nugent held an insurmountable lead over Luke Frazier and Marc Reusch. Nugent polled more than 70 percent of the vote, according to results.
"I really think the lack of competition really shows that we've been doing a good job over the past four years," Nugent said from his post-election party.
It was the second-straight blowout at the polls for Nugent, 57, a Republican. As the incumbent in 2004, Nugent won with more than 60 percent of the vote against a candidate, James McConnell, who had worked in law enforcement in Hernando for more than 25 years.
This time, Nugent contended with Frazier, a 23-year-old Democrat whose previous bid for public office was a failed campaign for county commissioner as a Republican in 2004, and Reusch, 48, a political novice and write-in candidate who most recently operated a bicycle shop in Brooksville.
Despite the apparent advantages in experience and name recognition, Nugent still endured an unusually personal campaign.
Frazier called Nugent a liar and a criminal at a campaign forum, and said Nugent uses his powerful office to quiet political opponents. Reusch repeated his claims that the Sheriff's Office refuses to investigate his complaints about being poisoned in his home.
Nugent grew frustrated with the personal attacks but stood on his eight years as sheriff, pointing out that he had limited his agency's spending of tax dollars during the ongoing budget crunch.
"Other people may have been qualified to run against me," Nugent said. "But they made the decision to sit this one out."
Frazier said he plans to run again in four years, when Nugent said he plans to step down.
Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120.