Busy election season in outlying counties


Published: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 11:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 11:28 p.m.

General election ballots in the rural counties of North Florida include at least a few local races in each county.

There are no incumbents in several races for constitutional officers, which means there will be several new faces in top local offices within a few months.

Supervisors of elections also note that they have seen an uptick in the number of candidates running this year with no political affiliation.

Here's a glimpse at races on the Nov. 6 ballot in counties across North Central Florida:

Bradford County

The only countywide races that remain to be decided in Bradford County involve two incumbents.

Democratic Sheriff Gordon Smith is being challenged by Republican JJ Etheridge, while Republican Superintendent of Schools Beth Moore is being challenged by Democrat Chad Farnsworth.

Voters in Precincts 10, 11 and 12 will decide whether Elbert E. Hersey or Ed Wall will become the next School Board member from District 4.

All other local Bradford County races were settled in the primary election or because only one candidate filed for an office.

Columbia County

For the past several years, all local races in Columbia County have been non-partisan.

The local races left to be determined in November include all three county commission seats up for election this year as well as a School Board seat and the superintendent of schools job. In that race, a former, long-time board member, Glenn J. Hunter, is facing a long-time school principal, Terry L. Huddleston.

Clay County

A former Clay County School Board member is facing a write-in candidate for the school superintendent job.

Republican Charles Van Zant Jr. resigned from his school board seat to run for superintendent. Van Zant ousted incumbent Republican superintendent Ben Wortham in the September primary. Van Zant is now being challenged for the superintendent job by write-in candidate Fred S. Gottshalk.

The District 3 seat that Van Zant held on the School Board will now go to the winner of the race between Shirley (Tina) Bullock and Joseph Wiggins Sr. The other School Board race that remains to be decided is for the District 4 seat, where incumbent Frank Farell is being challenged by Johnna McKinnon.

The other two local races in Clay County are for Clerk of Court and the District 1 county commission seat.

Dixie County

Four Dixie County incumbents are on the ballot, including one man who is being challenged by the incumbent he unseated four years ago.

In the runoff for the County Commission District 4 seat, first-term commissioner Ronnie Edmonds — who is running with no party affiliation — is being challenged by former longtime commissioner James Valentine, who is also running without a party affiliation. The third candidate in the race is Republican Benita Corbin.

The other commission seats on the November ballot include: District 1, where incumbent Gene Higginbotham is being challenged by Adam Barden in a race with no party affiliations; and District 3, where incumbent Democrat Mark Hatch faces Jody Robson, who has no party affiliation.

The other race on the ballot is a three-way contest between incumbent Sheriff Dewey H. Hatcher Sr., who is running without party affiliation; Democrat Darby Butler, and Tom Galloway, who is running without a party affiliation.

Gilchrist County

Voters in Gilchrist County will select four new officials in November to replace four retiring officials: the sheriff, clerk of court, tax collector and superintendent of schools. Voters will also be selecting three county commissioners and a School Board member.

The primary election whittled the field in the sheriff's race from five candidates to two — Republican Robert C. Roux Jr. and Democrat Robert (Bobby) Schultz.

The next clerk of court will be either Republican Todd Newton or Democrat Susan P. Owens. Voters will choose between Republican Tomy Langford and Democrat Barbara J. Merritt as their next clerk of court. And, the next school superintendent will be either Robert G. “Rob” Rankin, a Republican, or Christie L. McElroy, a Democrat.

The only School Board race to be decided in November is in District 2, where incumbent Robert B. Clemons is being challenged in his bid for a second term by Matthew Rexroat, the son of a former long-time board member, Gary Rexroat.

Levy County

The general election in Levy County features two county commission races with ties to federal criminal cases that played out over the past decade.

In the District 1 race, Jason Meeks advanced from the Republican primary to face Democrat Jamie Griffin. Some voters were surprised to see Griffin's name on sample ballots because of his criminal record. State officials said Griffin's voting rights were restored — making him eligible to run for office — after he served a year in prison in 2004 for taking more than $200,000 in money and property from the Town of Bronson while serving as mayor.

The District 1 seat became available as a result of another criminal case.

In 2008, then-commissioner Tony Parker was suspended from office and subsequently convicted in a federal bribery case.

To fill the opening, then-Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Owen “Chad” Johnson to fill Parker's seat. The seat was vacated a second time in 2010 when Johnson, who had moved out of the district, ran for and won a different seat on the commission.

At that point, Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, appointed Mike Joyner, also a Republican, to fill the seat, even though Joyner lived in District 3. Local and state officials said that appointments by the governor have fewer residency restrictions.

However, to stay on the commission, Joyner would have to move into the district or run for a seat in his home district by the next regularly scheduled election.

Joyner kept his home and threw his hat into the ring for the District 3 seat, where he is facing Democrat Al Macri.

The other races on the November ballot in Levy County include incumbent Democratic clerk Danny Shipp being challenged by Republican Wilbur Dean, a veteran member of the Levy County Soil and Water Board.

Voters will also select a new Levy County Sheriff to replace Johnny Smith, who is retiring after three terms. The sheriff's badge will go to either Republican Bobby McCallum or to Lee Sullivan, who is running with no party affiliation.

Superintendent of Schools Robert Hastings, a Republican, is being challenged in his bid for a second term by former local teachers' union president Cindy Roach, a Democrat.

Putnam County

Putnam County voters will select at least four new top local officials in November because the incumbents are retiring or lost the primary election; judge, tax collector, supervisor of elections and superintendent of schools.

The incumbent sheriff and incumbent property appraiser are also on the ballot, along with three county commission seats

Democratic Sheriff Jeff Hardy is facing: a Republican, Brent Coates; two candidates with no party affiliation, Larry Masters and Matt Ramer; and a write-in candidate. Property appraiser Tim Parker, a Republican, is being challenged by Buddy Goddard, who has no party affiliation.

Non-partisan candidates for County Judge Group 1 include Joe and Tito S. Smith.

The new tax collector will be Republican Brad Purcell or Democrat Linda Myers, while the new supervisor of elections will be Democrat Charles Overturf or Lee Harvey, who has no party affiliation.

The superintendent of schools race has been narrowed down to two candidates, Republican Phyllis Criswell and Democrat Jim Roach.

Suwannee County

Three of Suwannee County's top officials are being challenged in the general election.

Sheriff Tony Cameron, a Democrat, is being challenged by Fred S. Martin, who has no party affiliation. Democratic property appraiser Lamar Jenkins will face Republican William Neal Wright.

At the same time, school superintendent Jerry Scarborough, a Democrat, is being opposed by Republican David Laxton.

Suwannee County voters will also cast ballots for three county commission seats.

Union County

Like many neighboring counties, Union County will see some new faces in top county positions following the November election. Due to retirements, the county will get a new judge, a new clerk and a new tax collector.

The non-partisan judicial candidates are Bo Bayer and Russ Wade.

The next clerk of court will be Republican Kellie Hendricks Connell or Democrat Pat Cunningham. And, the new tax collector will be either Chris Mecusker, a Republican, or Lisa B. Johnson, a Democrat.

Union County has one county commission race on the ballot.

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