Experience and name recognition may have spelled the difference Tuesday for James Yant, who vaulted far ahead of his two opponents in the primary race for a seat on the Hernando County School Board for District 4.
With all precincts reporting at 9:45 p.m., Yant received 45.63 percent of all votes cast. He was followed by Gene Magrini with 28.03 percent and Robert Neuhausen, with 26.3 percent.
With no candidate breaking the 50 percent mark, Yant and Magrini will face a runoff vote in the Nov. 4 general election. The winner will replace retiring member Jim Malcolm.
Yant said he was encouraged by his strong showing, particularly given the low turnout in Tuesday's primary. "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I've been here for 35 years," Yant said. "Many people know me and they know what I stand for."
Yant, 61, began his career in 1973 as a guidance counselor at Hernando High School, before taking a similar role at Pasco-Hernando Community College. He later served as a member and chairman of the college's board of trustees. He is the founding owner of a Spring Hill insurance agency that bears his name.
His campaign revolved around the issue of finding a new way to fund education in an era of tight budgets. He said there likely wouldn't be money for teacher raises next year.
Magrini, 43, also ran on budget issues, saying his experience as human resources director for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave him an edge in corporate governance.
But he said the School Board would likely have sufficient money to give teachers a raise of up to 4.2 percent. That projection appeared vindicated last week, when the board offered the teacher's union a raise of 3.5 percent, plus a 1.5 percent boost for health care premiums.
"I really did my homework," Magrini said, referring to his budget preparations. "I feel comfortable I'll be able to do my homework and roll forward (in November.)"