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Election qualifying ends with addition of surprise entrants

The operator of the snack bar at the Hernando County Government Center and a man who had hoped to become Spring Hill's fire chief filed at the last minute Friday to run for public office.

Guy "Rusty" Amore Sr., 54, who has a contract with the county to run the snack bar on the third floor of the government center, surprised his co-workers when he forked over his $2,657 filing fee to seek the Republican nomination for the District 3 seat on the County Commission. The seat is being vacated by Commissioner June Ester, who is running for property appraiser.

Dennis Andrews, 43, a former assistant fire chief in Spring Hill who resigned under pressure last year, is running for one of three open seats on the non-partisan Spring Hill Fire and Rescue District Commission. Andrews, who quit in September, said he was left with little choice but to resign, given that three of the five commissioners appeared to want him removed.

The resignation followed comments from Fire Chief Mike Morgan, who said Andrews had made a series of "poor decisions," mostly related to the district's finances.

Andrews had applied for the chief's job when Morgan was hired. Andrews could not be reached for comment Friday.

Andrews and Amore were the only surprise entrants to file by the Friday noon deadline.

Most candidates had qualified earlier this week, supervisor of elections Ann Mau said. Many had announced their candidacies prior to the official filing period.

All but two of the partisan candidates qualified by gathering signatures from at least 3 percent of the registered voters who participated in the last general election. The petition method lets partisan candidates avoid high filing fees. Candidates running under a party banner still pay 10 cents for each signature that must be verified by election workers, unless the candidate claims a hardship exemption.

Non-partisan candidates must also pay for the signature verification and filing fees, but they also may claim hardship exemptions from both by signing an affidavit that says the fees would place an undue burden on them.

No additional candidates filed to run in the crowded race for the County Commission District 5 seat being vacated by Republican John Richardson. A total of eight candidates _ six Republicans, one Democrat and one non-partisan _ are vying for that position.

Amore, a Spring Hill resident living in District 4, said he plans to move to District 3 if elected.

"It's the best job in the county; it's challenging," Amore said as he rang up sandwiches during Friday's lunch rush. "I've been thinking about this for a year."

Amore said he's still working on a formal platform, but he says attracting high-paying jobs to Hernando County will be a top priority.

"I'm not talking about $5-an-hour jobs," he said.