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4 candidates face runoffs // HERNANDO COUNTY COMMISSION

Experience won out in the race to represent the GOP in the Hernando County Commission District 1 election, while four candidates will square off in runoffs for districts 3 and 5.

In the District 1 primary, former two-term County Commissioner Henry Ledbetter defeated Brooksville farmer and newcomer J.O. "Jimmy" Batten, taking a solid lead and keeping it throughout Tuesday night.

In District 5, voters whittled the six candidates to two, with county utilities employee Paul Sullivan and investor and former builder David Love set to compete in the Oct. 1 runoff.

Sullivan was the top vote-getter, with Love not far behind.

Finishing behind Love was William M. "Bud" Crane, 74, of Timber Pines.

Next came retired Clearwater firefighter John Paul Hite, 59. Richard J. McDermott, 25, a training manager for Wendy's International, finished a distant fifth, while Carl Franklin, 61, came in last.

"I'm disappointed with the turnout, but I'm happy with the results," said Sullivan, who led the race all evening.

Love, 32, said he plans to put up more signs and do more door-to-door campaigning before the runoff.

Sullivan, 51, touted his experience as a county employee and two years as a Connecticut state representative and school board member.

His platform included selling some county-owned lands and returning them to the tax rolls. He also supported a property tax rate increase, but only half of the 1-mill recommended by County Administrator Chuck Hetrick.

Love campaigned against a property tax rate increase and stressed running government more like a private business.

Barbara "Bobbi" Mills, 55, ended up the top finisher in the District 3 race, but came up a few votes short of winning outright.

She will have to battle second-place candidate Guy "Rusty" Amore, who operates a snack bar in the Hernando County Government Center.

Both say they will court those who cast ballots for third-place candidate Clem Merola, 59.

"I'm thrilled to pieces with it," Mills said of Tuesday's results.

Amore, 54, said he thought he would do better but will work hard during the next month. He said his knowledge of county operations will be an advantage.

"I think I have the facts," he said.

During the campaign, Mills opposed a property-tax rate increase and supported efforts to recruit industry.

Amore said he supported a half-mill increase in the property tax rate and proposed bringing higher paying jobs to the county.

Batten, who made a first attempt at running for office, proclaimed it his last.

"If the people want him, they deserve what they get for the next four years," Batten said. "This is the end of my political career."

Batten, 49, centered his campaign on holding the property tax rate steady.

Ledbetter, 61, stressed his political background and his experience dealing with small businesses as an auditor for the Florida Department of Revenue.

Ledbetter will face incumbent Pat Novy, a Democrat, in November.

Awaiting the District 3 Republican winner will be Democrat Roy Jensen. In District 5, Democrat Joe Lentini and no-party candidate Diane Rowden will be on the November ballot.

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