Former bank executive Robert E. "Rob" Turner held a commanding lead late Tuesday in the GOP primary to determine who will face embattled Hillsborough Property Appraiser Ron Alderman in the Nov. 5 general election.
With nearly half the precincts reporting, Turner held a 3-to-1 lead over Fred Pachoud, a sales representative with 13 years of service in the appraiser's office.
Alderman, seeking a third term, drew no opposition in the Democratic primary.
"I'm thrilled, obviously," said Turner, 45, who is making his first run for office after leaving a job as vice president of the real estate banking division at NationsBank.
"We had a good plan and good volunteers. Beginning tomorrow, we have another plan: to convince all the voters in Hillsborough County that a change needs to be made in the property appraiser's office."
Pachoud, fired by Alderman two years ago and still pressing a civil lawsuit to win back his job, was surprised by Turner's lead. But he pledged a unified Republican front to take on the incumbent.
"This is a thrashing, it looks like," Pachoud said. "But Rob and I ran a clean race. We're not enemies. The bottom line is we want to get Ron Alderman out of office."
As Turner put it, he and Pachoud "didn't act like kids in the mud," but focused instead on Alderman, an incumbent they think may have developed political vulnerability since being unopposed in 1992.
Alderman's reputation was tarnished when TV broadcasts showed him bar-hopping during business hours and when the state Department of Revenue and Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched an extensive investigation of his office.
Cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, Alderman was cited by the state for lack of accountability and sloppy record-keeping, and criticized in the media for fostering an atmosphere of cronyism.
In direct reference to continuing stories of favoritism in Alderman's office, Turner pledged to hire top managers through a qualification screening process.