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2 incumbents hold leads; third race running close // COUNTY COMMISSION

Two incumbent Citrus County commissioners held considerable leads Tuesday night, while the open seat, District 1, was too close to call.

Commission Chairman Brad Thorpe, a Republican, was ahead of Democrat Joe Cino, while Republican Commissioner Vicki Phillips was leading Democrat Dave Stanton and Independent Leo Hadley.

In the District 1 seat, which is being vacated by Commissioner Frank Schiraldi, Republican Roger Batchelor and Democrat Mike Gudis were battling for votes in a close election.

While campaigning for the District 1 seat, Batchelor supported a number of positions taken by the current board. He said commissioners were correct to privatize the county jail and the county's ambulance service. He also said the board was on the right track in making Citrus more business friendly by offering funds through occupational license revenues to help pay for infrastructure improvements.

Gudis offered a more critical perspective on the current board's positions, saying he thought commissioners were wrong to privatize the jail and the ambulance service. He also said the county should attract business by easing the permitting process and offering tax incentives for businesses that decide to relocate to Citrus.

In the District 3 race, Phillips ran on her record, while challengers Stanton and Hadley challenged positions taken by the current board.

Stanton and Hadley both urged tougher standards for the private companies running the county jail and county ambulance service. They also agreed that the county should stop enlarging the landfill and should begin to consider other options, such as recycling and composting.

But while Hadley emphasized the importance of holding referendums on major public issues, Stanton emphasized his experience monitoring contracts and working with budgets.

Phillips said during her campaign that she had remained true to her campaign pledge four years ago _ saving tax dollars and remaining accessible to the public.

In the District 5 race, Cino and Thorpe offered different views on several issues, including privatization and the future of the county landfill.

Thorpe stood by the county's decision to privatize the jail and the ambulance service, while Cino said he would work to bring those operations back under county control.

Cino supported new solutions to the county's trash problems, including recycling and composting, while Thorpe favored continuing to enlarge the landfill.