Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Republicans face off for Pasco County Commission District 4

The two Republicans vying to represent District 4 on the Pasco County Commission say the race boils down to one thing: leadership.

"I've truly seen how one leader can make a difference," said challenger Mike Wells, 42, a real estate agent, former regional manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car and son of property appraiser Mike Wells Sr. "I commit I will be that leader and stand up to problems and turn those problems into opportunities."

Incumbent Henry Wilson, 40, says he has not only been a leader, but has carried the torch of "conservative values" since 2010, when he upset incumbent Michael Cox, the commission's lone Democrat and a former Port Richey mayor.

A former managed care director, Wilson cites his successes in reducing the county's health care costs for employees and encouraging recycling, as well as his early opposition to a proposed elevated toll road along State Road 54.

"(A leader) stays firm after making decisions, and he's fine with being on the losing end of a 4-1 vote," said Wilson, who is seeking to avoid being a one-term commissioner.

The race has so far been low-key, with both candidates saying they will avoid negativity. Both have clean backgrounds, except for a 1991 drunken driving arrest for Wells when he was 19. Records show Wells completed DUI school and community service after pleading no contest.

"I didn't try to get out of it," Wells told the Tampa Bay Times. "I took responsibility for my actions, and I feel I am a better person because of it."

Each has endorsements of widely known leaders, with Wilson winning the support of Sheriff Chris Nocco, Clerk of Court Paula O'Neil and Republican members of Pasco's legislative delegation. A champion of rank-and-file county employees, he has also won endorsements from the county firefighters and law enforcement unions.

Two former county commissioners, Ann Hildebrand and Wilson's rival, Cox, have lent their names to the Wells camp, as has auto dealer Tom Castriota and west Pasco business leaders Chuck and John Grey.

Each candidate has won the support of county power brokers, but they don't enjoy the same levels of financial support. Wells has raised $73,445 so far, whereas Wilson has pulled in $36,015. However, $9,000 was all it took for Wilson to oust Cox, whose war chest totaled $160,000 in 2010.

Because there is no Democratic candidate, the Aug. 26 primary is open to all voters regardless of party and the winner takes the seat.

"I predict Wells will win with 60 percent of the vote," said Cox, who had considered a comeback attempt since the day he lost. He said one reason he bowed out is that he thought another Republican would stand a better chance of unseating Wilson.

"He's not afraid to form an opinion and take a stand," Cox said of longtime friend Wells, who worked for him as a teen in Port Richey. "That's something we've not had in four years."

Wilson's supporters beg to differ.

"Henry has served as a fair and thorough commissioner," O'Neil said in her statement of support. "He has taken the time to learn about government, spending time with the constitutional officers and departments. He has asked probing questions and has voted based on his conscience, weighing the needs of the citizens on every decision."

On the issues, the two have few differences. Wilson opposes increasing the gas tax to pay for roads, saying he would rather work to change a state law that restricts the use of real estate transfer fees and use them for transportation needs. Wells has expressed his opposition in the past but was noncommittal at a recent candidates' forum.

Wilson favors raising the hotel tax from 2 to 4 percent, but Wells opposes any increase.

"This does not impact our residents," Wilson said. "This will impact the people coming into our county."

Wilson has also expressed support for increasing property tax rates to restore parks and library services cut during the recession.

Wells said that until the county spends the tourism money it has collected over the past two decades, he wouldn't vote to raise the percentage.

"We've all been through tough times, including hotels in our community," he said. "We've all been taxed enough."

Contact Lisa Buie at lbuie@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4604. Follow @Lisa_Buie.

Republicans face off for Pasco County Commission District 4 08/07/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2014 10:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  2. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'

    Blogs

    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  3. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light

    Florida

    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  4. USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling

    College

    TAMPA — As Florida's universities stare down a mental health epidemic, the University of South Florida has crafted a plan it hopes will reach all students, from the one in crisis to the one who doesn't know he could use some help.

    A student crosses the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where visits to the school's crisis center more than doubled last year, part of a spike in demand that has affected colleges across the country. The university is addressing the issue this year with $1.5 million for more "wellness coaches," counselors, online programs and staff training. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. PTA treasurer at Pinellas school accused of stealing $5,000

    Crime

    The treasurer of the Parent-Teacher Association at a Pinellas County elementary school faces a felony fraud charge after she was accused of stealing from the organization to pay her credit card and phone bills.

    Lisa McMenamin, 50, of Tarpon Springs, is facing felony charges of scheming to defraud the Brooker Creek Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, where she served as treasurer. She is accused of stealing $5,000 to pay credit card and phone bills. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]