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Qualifying period ends, races heat up

Although the election season has been under way for some time, the matchups didn't become official until Friday.

Candidates had until noon to qualify for a spot on the ballot. Some waited until the last day, although most paid their fees or submitted their paperwork earlier in the week.

As expected, the most interesting primary races this September will be for sheriff and school superintendent. Not coincidentally, those races also have drawn the most candidates.

For sheriff, three Democrats and five Republicans will vie for their party's nomination. For the top school job, three Democrats and three Republicans are in the running.

In both races _ as in most others _ the winner in the Sept. 3 primary will need to get 50 percent of the vote, plus one, to win the nomination. Otherwise, the top two vote getters from each party must face off Oct. 1.

Two races will be decided in September. Longtime Circuit Judge John Thurman will square off against challenger Mike Blackstone, while Ocala judge Jack Singbush tries to fight off John Welch.

A third judicial race _ featuring Barbara Gurrola, Curtis Neal and Willard Pope _ could be decided in September if one candidate wins 50 percent of the vote plus one. Otherwise, the runoff goes to the Nov. 5 ballot.

There will be no primaries in either party for the races of Clerk of the Circuit Court, County Commission District 1 or County Commission District 5. Those races will be on the November ballot.

And in some cases, the voters won't get to decide at all. No candidates stepped forward to challenge the public defender, state attorney, tax collector or several circuit judges.