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Democrats' leader digs in his heels

Urged this week by his critics to follow through on a promise to resign as chairman of the Citrus County Democratic Executive Committee, Joe Cino said the "harassment" has caused him to reconsider.

"I had every intention of walking away in December, but I'm not going to be pushed around," Cino said Thursday.

The topic arose during a committee meeting Wednesday night, with some people calling for Cino to step down immediately.

Various accounts were offered of who provoked whom, but Cino said the meeting was a turning point.

"I let everyone take their shot," he recalled, "and then I said, "Have a nice day, I'm not resigning.' If they want to do it the hard way, I'm going to do it the hard way."

Cino, who has two years remaining in his term and contends he has more supporters than enemies, also said he would not give up his seat as a committee member of the Florida Democratic Party.

Ruth Anderson, one of his most pointed detractors, suggested that Cino had stirred up the audience to provide an excuse to back away from a promise.

"We were set up," Anderson said. "He's been dangling this bone in front of us _ I might resign, I might not."

On Thursday, Cino said he could still resign after the Dec. 4 organization meeting, but only if the critics keep quiet.

"If they really care about the Democratic Party," he said, "they would lay low."

Part of the controversy Wednesday concerned Cino's refusal to accept the charter of the Downtown Democrat Club. Cino has said the Inverness club usurped the committee's authority by hosting election events on its own.

Club president Frank Yetner said Cino was informed of the events and invited to get involved but chose not to. "He's a roadblock to progress," Yetner said.

Changes in Democratic Party leadership are occurring nationwide as the party reviews its candidates' results on Election Day. But the struggle for power in Citrus County was playing out long before Nov. 5.

Critics cite two incidents when calling for Cino's resignation.

In May, he got into an argument with Mike Gudis and allegedly called the former Crystal River City Council member a "Jew boy." Cino, who likens his former friend to a "professional instigator," said he was baited.

Yetner and others say Cino's colorful remarks about the state House of Representatives District 43 contest hurt Jimmy Carr's chances against Charlie Dean. "My personal opinion is Charlie Dean is going to squash him like a worm," Cino said the day after the Sept. 10 primary.

Carr, a political novice, was handily defeated by the former sheriff.

"We can all blame others for the losses, but we have to look from within," Yetner said. "Joe could have kept his mouth shut."