Homosassa Elementary School principal Robert Brust soundly defeated Karen Johnson, winning 64 percent of the vote in Tuesday's Democratic runoff election for school superintendent.
The result brings Johnson's 14-year run in local and state politics to an end. As she conceded defeat at the Citrus County Election's Office on Tuesday night, Johnson reassured friends and family: "There's life after politics."
Johnson chose not to run for a second term in the state Senate to run for the top school job. Before that, she served 10 years on the School Board.
Brust will next face Republican Julian "Pete" Kelly, a vocational teacher, and write-in candidate Ansel Briggs in the Nov. 5 general election.
As the votes were being tallied and his win was all but assured, Brust said he was pleased that his supporters had come out and voted. The margin of victory, 4,361 votes to 2,416, surprised him.
"It's what we've been saying all along, that this was about qualifications and education," Brust said.
It was the only race on the Democratic ticket and 6,856 voters _ or 20.5 percent of the 33,460 registered Democrats _ went to the polls Tuesday. Overall, 14,745 of the county's 63,376 registered voters cast votes, or 23 percent.
Brust, 46, campaigned on his experience as a principal, saying those duties prepared him to run the entire district.
Brust received the recommendation of the teachers union as well as the endorsement of retired school administrator Casey Kearse, who was knocked out of the superintendent's race in the September primary.
Johnson, 52, touted her experience in public office. Although her formal education stops at a high school diploma, she told audiences about the education she received through other life experiences.
Johnson immediately threw her support over to Brust after she congratulated him Tuesday night. "I want to thank all my supporters and let them know I'll still be around," Johnson said.
The superintendent serves a four-year term and the salary is $80,269. Whoever wins in November will take over for James Hughes, who opted not to seek election due to health concerns.