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Susan Arnett withdraws from Pasco commission race

Former United Way of Pasco president Susan Arnett is dropping out of the crowded field to replace retiring County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand.

Arnett, who entered the race in early April, cited personal issues. Her mother-in-law passed away a few weeks ago and she and her husband are also dealing with insurance problems after a sinkhole opened up at their home.

"We've had some changes in our personal dynamics," she said. "It's going to require me being more involved than I had anticipated."

Arnett said there are several remaining candidates who could do a good job, but "there's not any candidate I can endorse over anyone else." She plans to start a consulting business and said her first client would be a poverty awareness organization.

She isn't the only person reconsidering a run this year. After swelling to nine candidates, the District 3 field is now starting to contract. Nikolas Tzoumas of Trinity has already left the race. Jeff Palmer, an emergency room nurse and former firefighter, said he also plans to withdraw. The first-time candidate said he was only able to collect about a third of the nearly 3,000 voter petitions to make the ballot. Those petitions had to be submitted last week.

"It was a little bit eye-opening," Palmer said. "It's just hard to get those signatures."

Palmer said he is eyeing the 2014 election cycle, when five-term Commissioner Pat Mulieri plans to step aside in District 2.

Three candidates in the District 3 race collected the requisite petitions and do not have to pay a $4,800 qualifying fee. They are Republicans Randy Evans, Karen King and Josh Griffin.

The remaining candidates — Democrat Matt Murphy and Republicans Kathryn Starkey, Chris Gregg and Wil Nickerson — must decide by the June 4-8 qualifying period whether to pay the fee. Murphy, Gregg and Starkey all said they plan to do so. Nickerson, a GOP activist who also ran for the seat in 2008, said he is "still weighing my options."

"I've been at it for a while," he said. "I'm planning on moving ahead."

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

>>Fast facts

Other commission races

District 1: Incumbent Ted Schrader and challengers Ron Oakley and Rachel O'Connor, all Republicans, each collected enough petition cards to make the ballot. Democrat Nathaniel Sims of Dade City said he plans to pay the qualifying fee.

District 5: Incumbent Jack Mariano, a Republican, submitted enough petitions to run for a third term. GOP challenger Tommy Ray Byrd of Port Richey said he is unsure if he will pay the fee but that he hasn't "given up yet." Non-party candidate Todd Dellmore could not be reached for comment. Because he is running without party affiliation, Dellmore would only have to pay $3,200 to make the ballot.

Susan Arnett withdraws from Pasco commission race 05/15/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 9:02pm]
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