The Pasco County Commission has had its share of lopsided victories in the last 30 or so years. But there’s never been one like the District 4 race last week between current commissioner Henry Wilson Jr., and Mike Wells Jr.
More than 36 percentage points separated Wells from Wilson, the largest margin of victory since 2010 when Commissioner Pat Mulieri defeated independent candidate Clay Colson to keep her seat on District 2 by 40 percentage points.
Winners who pick up more than 60 percent of the vote in races typically are incumbents like Mulieri, who captured 61 percent of the vote in 1998, and 62 percent in 2002. But rarely, if ever, is the candidate who hits that milestone the challenger looking to unseat the incumbent.
Wilson won his seat in an upset win over Mike Cox in 2010, surprising nearly everyone with 52 percent of the vote. This time around, with most of the attention on the open seat left by Mulieri’s retirement in District 2, there was a question on whether or not Wilson would even be challenged by anyone else.
That is until early April when Wells, the son of former county commissioner and current county property appraiser Mike Wells Sr., decided it was time to run.
“We need leadership there, and we need it right now,” Wells told The Laker/Lutz News last month ahead of the primary. “We lost Ann Hildebrand on the commission a few years back, and now Ted Schrader says he is retiring in a couple years. Quite frankly, that creates a vacuum that needs to be fixed.”
Wells would take the seat with 68 percent of the vote, the biggest win of any commission candidate over an incumbent since at least 1980. The former Enterprise Rent-A-Car area manager and current real estate agent won every precinct in the county, and never trailed Wilson as the results were tabulated last week.
“When I started this journey very late into the campaign season, I did so because I wanted the opportunity to help as many people in Pasco County as I could,” Wells wrote on his Facebook page after the election. “So I went into the community and met with you. We met, we talked, you talked, and I listened. I’m still holding on to all of our conversations, and all of your stories.”
Because this seat was decided during primary season, Wilson will continue as a commissioner until November. He told The Laker/Lutz News that he will spend that time doing what he has done all along: serving the people of Pasco County, and “looking out for their best interests.”
“As far as my future, right now we are trusting God for what he has planned ahead of myself and my family, and am excited to see where that journey will take us.”
One other commission seat remains up for grabs, and that’s the one being vacated by Mulieri, who is retiring after 20 years. Mike Moore, who raised far more money than his opponents, took a first step toward that seat with a primary win.
“I am humbled by the support our campaign has received from so many people from across Pasco County,” Moore said. “I also deeply appreciate all the volunteers who have worked very hard toward our victory this evening.”
Moore won a little more than 50 percent of the vote in a campaign where he raised more than $100,000, and received support from outside political groups that purchased airtime on local television stations featuring Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Finishing as the runner-up for the second time in the primary is former state Rep. Ken Littlefield, who earned 28 percent of the vote.
“It was an impressive win by Mike Moore,” Littlefield said. “To prevail in a three-candidate primary with over 50 percent of the vote is a notable feat and deserves congratulations.”
Littlefield will continue to do what he has done the last five years, he said: “Get up early, put a tie on, and go work for Hodges Family Funeral Home.
“I enjoy the work, and at this time, have no plans to run for public office,” he said.
Bob Robertson, a financial analyst who lives in Lake Bernadette in Zephyrhills, left the door slightly more open for a possible future run.
“It was important to me to offer myself without accepting funds from anyone that might compromise me later,” he said. “Hopefully now, life returns to some sense of normal. As to future plans, impossible to know at this point.”
Moore now faces Erika Remsberg, who won the Democratic nomination for the District 2 commission seat without opposition.
Published September 3, 2014
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