1. Florida Politics

Sheriff, nine others win with no opposition

Chris Nocco is the first incumbent Pasco sheriff to run unopposed since before World War II.
Chris Nocco is the first incumbent Pasco sheriff to run unopposed since before World War II.
Published Jun. 30, 2016

Sheriff Chris Nocco has done what even Pasco County's longest-serving sheriff had been unable to do — win re-election without opposition.

Nocco, appointed to the position in 2011, secured another four-year term last week when nobody filed to run against him. That hasn't happened in Pasco County since at least before World War II, when Leslie Bessenger was the county's top law enforcement officer.

Bessenger was first elected sheriff in 1940 and served until 1962 when he resigned to take a job with the Florida Citrus Mutual. He faced at least one primary opponent every four years during his tenure, according to news accounts at the time of his resignation.

Likewise, no sheriff who followed Bessenger ran unopposed. More typical was the race in 1988, when incumbent Republican Sheriff Jim Gillum had seven challengers, including four from his own party, trying to unseat him.

Just four years ago, Nocco defeated two Republicans in the primary and Democrat Kim Bogart in November to win a full four-year term.

Nocco's uncontested re-election in 2016 is indicative of the sheriff's popularity, his political prowess and the county's continued tilt to the right, which puts Democrats at a decided disadvantage during general elections. Pasco's current registration numbers show the Republican Party with a 21,000-voter advantage over Democrats.

"I'm incredibly blessed that the citizens have so much faith in what we're doing,'' Nocco said about an uncontested re-election.

The sheriff wasn't alone in winning another term without facing voters. Nine other candidates, including eight incumbents representing Pasco residents, will not face contested elections.

Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, schools Superintendent Kurt Browning and School Board member Alison Crumbley won new four-year terms as did new School Board member Colleen Beaudoin of Land O'Lakes, who went unopposed in filling the seat of the retiring Joanne Hurley.

Almost all of Pasco's legislative delegation also won re-election without opposition. The exception was Sen. Jack Latvala who drew two write-in candidates. Latvala's name will now appear on the November ballot along with a blank line for write-in candidates Katherine Perkins and Michael Ryan.

The only other suspense had been the pending candidacy of Ronson Biedrzycki of Spring Hill, who had filed as a Republican to run against state Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes. But Biedrzycki said before the filing deadline that he was pulling the plug on his candidacy.

"I didn't make it; I'm not going to run,'' said Biedrzycki, who began his candidacy 13 months ago, but collected just 602 of the 1,113 required petition signatures.

Corcoran hadn't been taking any chances, however, filling voters' mailboxes with campaign literature prior to the filing deadline that emphasized his stance as pro-2nd Amendment and anti-Obamacare.

Corcoran; Rep. Danny Burgess, R-San Antonio, and Sens. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and Tom Lee, R-Brandon, are assured of representing Pasco County in Tallahassee.