Jeff Stabins' latest announcement that he will not seek re-election means — if he doesn't change his mind again — the Hernando County Commission will have at least one new face come November and a potential for an even greater voting majority by the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Stabins, 52, a two-term incumbent, announced last week he would fold his re-election bid and withdraw from the GOP. It echoes sentiments he expressed more than a year ago when he confessed frustration at an inability to build consensus and authored a letter to this newspaper lamenting the dearth of inspirational leaders in both major political parties. Unfortunately, Stabins' own odd behavior magnified his disinterest and undermined his personal political credibility.
Despite the well-documented shortcomings, Stabins also provides a moderate voice on a panel too-frequently dominated by right-leaning, anti-government, anti-tax rhetoric. Stabins, for instance, helped rein in the recent commission bashing of state environmentalists concerned about damage from the Hernando Beach channel dredging. In that regard, Stabins fills a vital role that should not be usurped.
His departure certainly means a more wide-open race for the District 1 seat that already includes four Republicans, a Democrat and an independent.
The initial choice of voters will be made Aug. 14 in the Republican Party primary. For the next three months, GOP voters should study the field of candidates and decide, when they select their nominee, if they want diverse opinions and healthy debate on matters of public interest or simply someone to share in lock-step logic and frequent unanimous votes.