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Himmel opens big lead; two GOP contests tight // CITRUS SCHOOL BOARD

One Citrus County School Board candidate had a substantial lead and two other School Board races were too close to call Tuesday in early returns.

With about a third of the precincts counted, Democrat Sandra "Sam" Himmel was ahead of challenger Michael Noland in the Democratic primary for the District 5 seat by a ratio of more than 2-to-1.

The third candidate in the race, Gerome Randle, was trailing with about a third of Noland's vote total.

The District 5 seat was vacated when Janet Herndon quit to run for school superintendent. The winner, if no run-off is necessary, will face Republican B. J. Collins in November.

In the Republican race for District 2, Carl Hansen had a slight lead over Avis Craig. The winner will face Democrat John Troy in the November election.

The District 2 seat has been held for the past 12 years by Ruthann Derrico, who did not seek re-election this year.

In the Republican primary for the District 4 seat, Patience Nave and David Watson were close in votes, while Bill Ladkani trailed far behind.

The eventual Republican winner in District 4 will face Democrat Jackie Evans in the November election. She did not have primary opposition.

Watson, 50, has been on the board for the past 12 years. He works at Florida Power and is a former teacher. His campaign has focused on the fact that he has experience as a board member, but he also has both management and classroom experiences in his past.

Nave is a 65-year-old community college instructor. She has campaigned on her interest in creating a world-class school system and her willingness to become a full-time board member if she is elected.

Local businessman Ladkani has spent much of his time campaigning on both his years of work as a business manager and his history of working with the schools as his children have grown.

The District 2 and 4 seats are for four years.

The final winner of the District 5 seat will serve a term of two years, completing Herndon's unexpired term.

The job pays $21,870.