By ROBERT NAPPER, Times Correspondent
and C.T. BOWEN, Times Staff Writer
Former Pasco County prosecutor Scott Tremblay is the new mayor of Port Richey, winning a tight special election to replace jailed ex-mayor Dale Massad.
It came down to two candidates Tuesday in a five-person race as Tremblay narrowly edged former Port Richey vice mayor Bill Colombo to win Massad’s seat.
Tremblay, 42, unofficially beat Colombo by just 8 votes with 156 votes, more than 27 percent of the vote. Colombo received 148 votes, or about 26 percent of the vote.
It is Tremblay’s first time running for municipal office. He not only beat Colombo, but soundly defeated City Council member Richard Bloom, who resigned his seat to run for mayor. Bloom received 90 votes, getting nearly 16 percent of the vote. Todd Maklary came in third with 125 votes, and Gregory Smithwick got 46 votes.
Tremblay, who has his own private practice in New Port Richey specializing in criminal defense, personal injury and family law, won an election that featured a solid turnout of more than 29 percent.
“I would define that as a higher than is traditional for a municipality, especially for a special election,” said Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley.
It was a dramatic finish for a city that has seen its share of scandal in recent months. Massad’s epic fall from grace made national headlines in February, when the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said that Massad, 68, fired on deputies as they raided his house amid a state investigation authorities say revealed he practiced medicine without a license. Massad, a doctor who lost his license in 1992, has been held without bond since on charges of attempted murder and practicing medicine without a license.
The political landscape at City Hall took another bizarre turn as authorities arrested Terry Rowe, who had left his vice mayor spot to serve as acting mayor following Massad’s arrest. Authorities arrested Rowe on charges of conspiring with Massad during a jailhouse phone call against a Port Richey police officer who helped to investigate Massad.
Even with a new mayor, the intrigue over how to make the council whole again is far from over. Rowe was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but has not resigned. And with Bloom’s resignation to run for mayor leaving his seat open, two spots on the five-member council are still vacant.
City Council member Jennie Sorrell said she is glad the voters finally spoke. She is excited over Tremblay’s victory, saying that in talking with him she saw a pragmatism and stability that will benefit the city.
“I don’t think we can do anything about the massive damage done by Dale Massad or Terry Rowe, but I think we can make people proud to live in Port Richey and have faith in their government again,” she said.
Voters will go to the polls for a special election September 10 to fill Bloom’s seat, but it remains to be seen how Rowe’s seat will be filled.
Maggard wins state House District 38 seat
State legislators first drew east Pasco County its own House of Representatives’ seat in 1992. It’s never been held by a Democrat.
On Tuesday, voters continued that streak, picking Republican businessman Randy Maggard in a special election to fill the District 38 seat vacated by Danny Burgess, who resigned to become chief of Florida’s Department of Veterans Affairs.
Maggard, 55, the former Pasco Republican Party chairman and a member of the Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board, overwhelmed Democrat Kelly Smith 56 percent to 44 percent, with all 41 precincts reporting, according to unofficial returns. Turnout was about 15 percent.
“I just can’t thank my supporters enough. It’s overwhelming,’’ said Maggard. “I hope I keep their trust and I go up there and represent them the way they want me to.’’
"There’s nothing we could have differently,'' said Smith. "I am really frustrated by the turnout.''
Smith, 44, who moved to Wesley Chapel 10 years ago from Collier County, couldn’t overcome the name recognition of Maggard, a native and life-long resident of east Pasco County.
“Of course I voted for Randy, he’s my neighbor and he’s got more experience. No offense to the lady, I just don’t know her,’’ said voter Peggy Wilfong, 81, of Zephyrhills.
Even some voters who supported Smith stumbled over her identity. In interviews with a reporter, one referred to her as "Kathy'' Smith and another volunteered she voted “for the girl.’’
The GOP brand also resonated with voters in a district where Republicans hold large a registration advantage.
Maggard’s campaign emphasized his Pasco roots, support from a litany of elected Republican officials and his small business experience. He is vice president of the family business, Sonny’s Discount Appliances in Dade City.
Smith is operations manager for an engineering firm.
District 38 covers all of Pasco, east of Ehren Cutoff in Land O’ Lakes and includes Wesley Chapel and the cities of Dade City and Zephyrhills.