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Candidate for GOP post fails to make cut

Published Sep. 16, 2005

When State Rep. Jeff Stabins announced plans to take over leadership of the local Republican Party, he introduced Mary Ann Wright as his candidate for state committeewoman.

Wright said she submitted her application with the supervisor of elections, Ann Mau, immediately after Stabins' news conferenceoutside the county government center July 11.

She added that she watched as the application was punched with a time clock, signifying that it had been accepted as an official document.

Then, a few days later, when checking the office's list of candidates, she was surprised to find that her name was absent, she said. And, because the deadline had passed, Mau told her there was no way she could run for the job.

"This is just a horrible, horrible situation for me," Wright said. "This is the first time I've ventured out for any kind of elected office, and it was denied me.

"I can't tell you how heartsick I've been about it."

Mau said Monday that her position remains firm. Because her office does not have Wright's application or any record of receiving it before the deadline, Wright cannot be a candidate for the office.

Deputy County Administrator Jennene Norman, the current state committeewoman, did file for the position. Unless a judge overrules Mau's decision _ Wright said Monday she plans to seek such a ruling _ Norman's name is the only one that will appear on the ballot in the September primary.

Registered Republicans can vote for one state committeeman and one state committeewoman from Hernando County. The winners then represent the county with the state party and typically support local Republican candidates.

Voters also elect either two or four members of the Republican Executive Committee from each precinct, depending on the size of the precinct. Stabins' office recruited more than 50 supporters to run for the committee, as well as candidates for state committeeman and committeewoman.

Stabins said he wanted to break up what he called the elitist leadership of the committee, which he has been feuding with since 1990.

Despite the strong political feelings about what his opponents call a power grab, neither he nor Wright blamed them for the missing document.

"How can we?" Stabins asked.

"I guess it's incompetence," Wright said.

She said Mau's office did not make copies "until late in the day, and prior to that, there were people pawing through them, and I don't think that should have happened."

Mau said she never received the application and that Stabins' group did not give her office a master list of its candidates, so her staff could not check to make sure it had all of the applications.

Mau recalled that Wright and another Stabins supporter went over the pile of applications with her.

"I told them, "If you wait, we can make you copies.' And they did not want to wait," Mau said.

Wright, a former member of the executive committee, is best known as a member of the Christian Coalition and as coordinator of Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in the county.

She said she has hired Spring Hill lawyer L.R. Huffstetler to file a suit asking a judge to overrule Mau and allow Wright to run. Huffstetler could not be reached for comment late Monday.

Wright is confident a judge will agree with her, she said, because several people saw that her application was stamped.

"I've got witnesses," she said.