Commission race an open primary, other candidates qualify

A last-minute write-in candidate almost made the race for the Pasco County Commission District 4 race even more interesting than it already is. However, Grady Peeler Jr., pulled out of the race just as quickly as he entered last week.

Volunteers for Pasco County Commission candidate Bob Robertson gather in pray to lead off a sign-waving event last week near the intersection of State Road 54 and Eiland Boulevard, west of Zephyrhills. (Michael Hinman/Staff Photo)

Volunteers for Pasco County Commission candidate Bob Robertson gather in pray to lead off a sign-waving event last week near the intersection of State Road 54 and Eiland Boulevard, west of Zephyrhills.
(Michael Hinman/Staff Photo)

That leaves just Commissioner Henry Wilson Jr., to defend his seat against Mike Wells Jr., during an open primary in August that will allow all voters — no matter what their party affiliation is — to decide between the two Republicans.

Wilson is working hard to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself. He was first elected to the commission in 2010 after a major upset of incumbent Michael Cox, and is trying to stop being on the wrong end of another incumbent defeat, this time at the hands of Wells, the son of county property appraiser and former county commissioner Mike Wells Sr.

Wells entered the race with a boom, showing he has the ability to raise a lot of money fast. In just two months of campaigning, Wells has raised $45,600 compared to the just under $24,000 from Wilson.

But money never worried Wilson too much. In his first race, Wilson raised just $8,700 — pennies compared to the massive $163,000 campaign war chest collected by Cox, who at the time was the one Democrat on the commission.

If Peeler had qualified for the race, Wilson and Wells would’ve still met Aug. 26, but only Republicans would’ve been able to vote. Instead, all voters will have a chance to decide between Wilson and Wells, the winner claiming the District 4 seat.

In the other county commission race for the District 2 seat currently held by Pat Mulieri, all three Republican candidates — Ken Littlefield, Mike Moore and Bob Robertson — have qualified. They will battle it out in the August primary among Republican voters, the winner facing Land O’ Lakes resident Erika Remsberg, the only Democrat to file.

If Remsberg were to win, she would be the first Democrat on the commission since Cox departed in 2010.

Mike Fasano got a big vote of confidence from county residents as no one challenged him for his seat as the county tax collector. He will serve a two-year term, facing election again in 2016.

Also returning to their jobs without opposition are two school board members, Allen Altman and Cynthia Armstrong. The District 5 seat will see incumbent Steve Luikart face challenger Marc Yacht.

At the state level, however, Minnie Diaz said she got a lesson in how not to run a campaign. The Pasco-Hernando State College adjunct professor failed to qualify in her race to succeed state Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, after misunderstanding when she was supposed to file her financial disclosure form.

“I assume full responsibility,” Diaz said. “I did not fully grasp the process of qualifying week, and I did not understand what it truly meant. There was a certain amount of confusion on my part.”

Diaz had filed most of her paperwork a year ago, and even collected the necessary 986 signatures before Christmas. However, she said she believed she had until July 1 to file her financial disclosure form, but later learned that was only for incumbents.

Diaz filed that form, but more than two hours too late.

Because of that, former Zephyrhills mayor Danny Burgess wins the Republican nomination, and won’t have to go through a primary battle with Diaz. Instead, he can focus on his race in November against Democrat Beverly Ledbetter, who also qualified last Friday.

Returning to Tallahassee unopposed are Trilby Republican Wilton Simpson in the Senate, and both Land O’ Lakes Republican Richard Corcoran and Tampa Democrat Janet Cruz in the House.

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, earned a primary challenger on the final day of qualifying from Miriam Steinberg, a quality engineer for Honeywell Aerospace. They both will fight in a closed primary because Daniel John Matthews of Tampa, who says he works for a company called Cats on Deck, earned a spot as a write-in candidate. That means only Republicans will likely choose who represents House District 64.

Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, won’t need a primary, but he will have to appear on the ballot after he received a write-in challenge from Jose Vazquez Figueroa, a self-employed Tampa resident.

Also getting a write-in challenge is Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who attracted two opponents, Brandon Thebeau and Steven Warren, although neither will be listed on the ballot.

Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa, qualified for his race against Republican challenger Shawn Harrison. Voters in House District 63 will choose between them in November.

Published June 25, 2014

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