If you live in Florida and there’s a primary coming up in August, you have to forego the usual outdoor venue for a political forum and opt for an indoor air conditioned facility. Challenger K-8 School was an ideal location for the Politics in the Park forum held on Thursday July 14.
Last week’s forum marked the sixth time the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce has held this important community event. Twenty-eight candidates showed up running for various state, local and federal offices. Those who could not attend in person had campaign representatives standing in for them.
The forum started at 5 pm with candidates positioned around the room at tables handing out campaign literature and talking with the attendees. At approximately 6 pm the candidates began speaking in an adjacent room where they had three minutes to discuss their background, beliefs and platforms. They were each interviewed on WXJB for three minutes as well.
Five candidates for county commission showed up in the form – Mike Fulford, Brian Hawkins, April Johnson-Spence, Anthony Arenz and Jerry Campbell.
April Johnson-Spence, running for county commission in District 2, believes that communication with the residents is the most important issue in the county. She states that the Board of County Commissioners needs to have transparency and be accountable to the voters.
Brian Hawkins is also running for county commission in District 2. He believes that the most important issue is economic development. Hawkins states that we need to attract more businesses so that residents will stay in the county to work rather than commute to other areas.
Three candidates for Brooksville City Council were at the event – Christopher Kingsley, Casey Thieryung, and Thomas Bronson.
Christopher Kingsley believes that the city council needs to cooperate with the county commission more. He’d like to find ways to consolidate some of the city and county departments, such as code enforcement, in order to streamline the operations.
Casey Thieryung wants to incentivize more retail businesses, such as shops and restaurants to move to the downtown area. He believes this will bring more revenue to the city and attract people to shop, dine and spend their money here.
Rock Dazé, John Temple and Ash Marwah, running for state representative from District 52, along with Jeff Holcomb and Anthony Kocovic, running for state representative from District 53, were at the forum to present their platforms. Rock Dazé believes that election integrity is the most important issue facing us. He states that there should be more control at the county level on issues and more information going out to the people so they know what’s going on. Dazé feels that new people need to be brought into the political process and that they need to have a voice.
John Temple believes that his background as an educator will be an asset to him as a representative. Because more than half of the 3,000 bills proposed this past year had something to do with families, education and similar concerns, he feels that he’ll be able to eliminate the bad ideas and promote the good ideas.
Ash Marweh, a Democratic candidate, will face the Republican primary winner for this seat. He wants to stop the preemptive laws coming out of Tallahassee. These are state laws that override local laws. An example of this is the limit the state has placed on impact fees. He also wants to stop some of the illegal changes in election laws.
Seven candidates for seats on the Hernando County School board were at the forum. These were Kay Hatch, Mark C, Johnson, and Jenn Licata running in District 1; Jimmy Lodato and Shannon Rodriguez for District 3; Susan Duval, Lara Dedmon and Pam Everett for District 5.
Kay Hatch is running for re-election. She believes that the most important issue in terms of education in Hernando County is to stimulate the success of ALL students. This is being done now by building our academic advanced placement classes and our career and technical education programs. Hatch states that 98% of students with a CTE (Career & Technical) certification graduate from high school.
Lara Dedmon is new to politics and got involved in the school board race because she wants to see some changes made. Her main concern is the low scores of students on the standardized tests, especially in the area of reading. Dedmon believes this can be addressed by early teaching of basic phonics skills, even before the child goes to pre-school, and more one-on-one tutoring and help for students who are struggling in this area.
The candidates for House of Representatives for the 12th Congressional District who attended the forum were Chris Leiser, Jack Martin, Brian Perras and Sid Preskitt. Michael Risola stood in for Gus Bilirakis, the incumbent. Kimberly Walker, the Democratic candidate, was also there.
Chris Leiser wants to address two issues – our relations with some foreign countries and term limits. He states that we shouldn’t make it a priority to do business with countries like China that don’t allow their people to be free. Leiser also believes a lot of the problems in Washington are because we don’t have term limits. He feels that powerful factions are only possible because people have been there for so long.
There are two issues that Jack Martin wants to address if he’s elected to congress. One is the problem of illegal immigration. He’s in favor of the border wall and feels we need to have a comprehensive immigration policy. Martin also believes that we need to ensure the integrity of the elections.
In November, Kimberly Walker will face the winner of the Republican primary. She feels the cost of healthcare is a major issue. She plans to address this issue by reforming Obamacare and revamping the system for issuing patents to drug companies. Walker also wants to improve the care that veterans receive in VA hospitals by paying the doctors a competitive wage.
Spring Hill resident Ann Hines has attended several of these forums in the past. Her reason for going to the July 14th event was to “see the candidates and I wanted to prepare myself to vote in the election.”
After she had listened to most of the speeches and talked to many of the candidates individually, Ms. Hines commented, “This is the best one I’ve ever attended. It was well-organized and the candidates were interesting and engaging.”
Staff from the Supervisor of Elections office were at the forum to register people to vote who had not yet registered and to answer questions. Attendees were also given the opportunity to vote for the candidates of their choice in a straw poll. The results are posted on the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hernandocountychamber/posts/2002623869788239
For more information on the upcoming primary and general election call 352-754-4125 or go to https://www.hernandovotes.gov/
Voting is one of our privileges and duties as United States citizens−one not afforded people in many other countries. As important as it is to vote, it’s equally important to be informed about the candidates and the issues. As Plato stated more than 2,000 years ago, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Centuries later Thomas Jefferson stated, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
Editor’s note: Please refer to Hernando Sun’s election coverage in Section A (7/15 & 7/22 issues) for more complete coverage of school board and county commission candidates. In this article the reporter tried to represent several candidates for each office, but it was not possible to interview all candidates attending the forum. Also, views of the candidates do not necessarily represent the views of the writer or the Hernando Sun. Follow Hernando Sun for more election coverage in the coming weeks.