American children are taught that citizens of the United States are afforded rights and privileges that citizens of other countries do not have. Among them is the opportunity to run for public office and make a difference in how our government serves the people.
I always believed that and it's why I ran for public service. On June 7, I filed the official paperwork with the Hernando County Supervisor of Elections to run as a Republican candidate for Hernando County Commission, District 5.
I heard about a Republican-sponsored chili cook-off in Mazaryktown the next day. This was my first political event and I thought this would be a good start. I quickly discovered this was not the case.
I was approached by a gentleman who asked me what I was doing there. He was not happy when I told him I had entered the race for County Commission District 5. I was informed that the Republicans already had a candidate named James Adkins (my opponent) and that's who they were supporting. I told him that Adkins is my neighbor; I knew him but we just had different philosophies and now the voters had a choice. The man made it clear the Republicans would not support me, told me I was a spoiler and said I should have asked him first before I filed.
Huh? This is America, land of the free. A citizen doesn't need permission to run for public office. Another candidate overheard the conversation and later told me I had just ticked off the head of the Republican Party in Hernando County, Blaise Ingoglia. I felt like I was back in junior high school.
After that experience, my wife, Tammy, and I had a long discussion on whether I should have run as NPA (no party affiliation). We arrived at the conclusion that we were not going to be chased off our party affiliation. I am a Reagan Republican and still hold on to the philosophies of the old party. I was introduced to the new Republican Party and quickly realized this was no longer the Reagan Republican party. This Republican Party has been infiltrated by the Tea Party and now holds their slash and burn philosophies.
I joined the Republican Executive Committee and thought I would get more information on upcoming events, but was left out of the loop repeatedly. I got more information on these events from the Internet and the newspapers.
I was told that when you run in the primary, you're on your own. Well, that wasn't quite true. It meant that I was on my own, but not my opponent. I was not invited to Republican Party meetings, nor was I offered the opportunity to debate my opponent. Turns out all the debates were planned before the official qualifying date and since the incumbent had no opposition at that time, the party saw no point in planning a debate later. And, of the 250 campaign signs we placed throughout the county, we lost 110, even though my opponent's signs were still in the same places.
As a candidate, I met with as many people as possible. I met people in shopping centers, office buildings, churches. I met community leaders, attorneys, pastors, gas station attendants, car dealers and managers. I lost 21 pounds in two months just walking door to door.
My campaign platform was to help rebuild our county by developing our existing businesses and attracting new business to the area. Executives have families and they expect good schools and services, and activities. If Hernando County is run as a threadbare minimalist county, no large companies will ever want to relocate here. They will instead move to neighboring counties that offer these services.
I ran a clean campaign, but I was very disappointed in the Republican Party. The general attitude seems to be "I got mine." I don't like taxes, no one does; however, I realize that most of the services we depend on are funded by taxes.
Those who run the party have their own agenda with special interest groups and the goal is to create a government that operates to their benefit even to the point of threatening a business owner for putting the signs for other candidates on his property. Silly me. I thought the goal of government was to serve the people.
I was very disheartened at the voter turnout (or should I say the lack of it). Of the 48,847 registered Republican voters in Hernando County, only 11,722 voted in my race. It was pathetic. Sadly, a very small minority of the residents of Hernando County were allowed to determine the future for the silent majority.
Our right to vote is a gift, and our ancestors fought and died so that we could have that right. When it comes to gifts, it may be the thought that counts; but, when it comes to an election, it's the vote that counts. It is time for us to take back our beautiful county. It is time to put all party affiliations aside and select candidates who want to work only for the best interest of Hernando County. Do your own research; don't vote for someone just because you share the same party affiliation, or because your friends are voting for them, or because a radio personality says you should. Vote your conscience.
On Nov. 6, the future of Hernando County is in your hands. Your vote does count and it will make a difference.
Retired executive Jimmy Lodato ran unsuccessfully for the Hernando County Commission in the Aug. 14 Republican primary.