BROOKSVILLE — Despite aggressive challengers on Tuesday’s ballot, Hernando County voters gave their support to incumbents, returning Sheriff Al Nienhuis, District 3 County Commissioner John Allocco and School Board member Linda Prescott to office.
In the District 1 and District 5 commission races, the final decisions come in November.
There were four Republicans seeking the District 1 seat that John Mitten will vacate. Mitten, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to fill the seat of Nick Nicholson after his arrest on prostitution-related charges, chose not to run. Despite charges and a plea deal that brought a fine but no guilty verdict, Nicholson took a run at his old seat. A flurry of campaign fliers were sent out reminding voters of the charges that earned Hernando County unwanted national attention.
Nicholson collected more in campaign contributions than any other candidate, but almost all of it came from him sinking $37,000 into the race. He received 8 percent of the vote.
The Republican primary winner was Beth Narverud, a former School Board member. Mark Johnson, another former board member, was second and Joe Swilley came in third. Narverud will face Democrat Isaiah Christian Haddon in November.
Steve Champion, District 5 commissioner, faced a barrage of criticisms for his attacks on constituents who opposed him through social media posts and from the microphone in commission meetings. He won the primary with nearly 60 percent of the vote over challenger Kevin Hohn, a former member of the Brooksville City Council. Champion will face no-party candidate Michael Burmann in November.
Of the candidates who won outright this week, Nienhuis had the most aggressive challenger in his former third-in-command. James Terry accused his former boss of lack of transparency with county funding. Terry called Niehnuis out several years ago for not reporting to the County Commission on funds he received from housing federal inmates. Niehnuis had to amend his budget that year and return those funds at the order of the commission.
Terry also questioned how Nienhuis routinely failed to fill positions while asking for more county funding for new employees.
Nienhuis, 56, will reach his announced state retirement date at the end of this year. While he said he plans to serve out his term, Terry has raised questions about whether Nienhuis is setting up for his successor to be chosen as a political appointment.
Nienhuis won with more than 67 percent of the vote.
Allocco won his second term on the commission earning nearly 69 percent of votes cast over challenger Burton Melaugh and Prescott won her second term on the School Board over Charles Helm taking more than 60 percent of the ballots cast.