Citrus Candidates Begin Game of Political Musical Chairs



Did you hear it? The music started.


State Representative Ralph Massullo filed to run for state senate this week. He joins a primary between Hernando County State Representative Blaise Ingoglia and Pasco County State Representative John Legg.


The newly drawn district, which won’t be approved until the end of the legislative session in early March, appears to include all of Citrus and Hernando Counties with most of Sumter County and only a small portion of northern Pasco County.


The question to ask right now is not who will prevail in this state senate race but rather what ramifications does Rep. Massullo vacating the house seat, which by Florida law he is unable to seek re-election for while he runs for state senate, have on Citrus politics? In other words, the events of this week have pressed play on what could be a massive game of political musical chairs.


For example, the trickle-down effect could dramatically reshape many different local entities if current elected officials wanted to seek higher office.

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The Citrus County School Board has three seats up for re-election, which represent a majority of its five member board. These are seats currently held by Linda Powers, Thomas Kennedy and Doug Dodd, none of whom have officially filed for reelection yet.


Two of these three members, Captain Dodd and Mr. Kennedy, would make natural candidates to run for Rep. Massullo’s vacant seat. Ms. Powers may seek reelection, but after 18 years on the school board, she may not.


She faced three challengers last election cycle, while her colleagues Capt. Dodd and Mr. Kennedy ran unopposed. She handily defeated her competition with over 54% in the primary showing her support among voters is still strong despite the appearance of vulnerability to political hopefuls. Still, she is likely to face competition again and sometimes it is easier to call it a career on your own terms rather than to face defeat after nearly two decades of service.

If Ms. Powers decides not to run again in addition to Capt. Dodd and Mr. Kennedy both filing for state representative, then the school board would experience an instant voting majority changeover. This is an unlikely scenario, however, with the more likely outcome that Capt. Dodd runs for reelection while Ms. Powers probably will as well.


The county commission could also experience some significant disruption. Two seats are officially up for reelection in 2022. Chairman Ron Kitchen and Commissioner Scott Carnahan currently hold these seats that represent the lower west side and east side of the county respectively.


Chairman Kitchen has already made it clear that he will not seek reelection and Commissioner Carnahan has said he only will if there are no candidates he feels worthy of carrying the torch.


After four years of controversy, he would face an uphill battle in a contested race although his ability to fundraise and support in the county is often downplayed by his detractors.


This means someone new is certainly going to be in one seat with a high probability of another newcomer in the other as well. Now consider if Commissioner Jeff Kinnard decides to run for state representative.


Florida law requires Commissioner Kinnard to resign from his post before qualifying for the next office. The would open a third position on the Board potentially changing over a majority of its members within the next year as well.


Commissioner Kinnard has not given any outright indication that he has plans to seek the seat. However, many of the issues he’s been most passionate about lately from securing funding for parks to adding more subsidies for septic-to-sewer projects, are all local initiatives that the state could get involved in.


One of the duties of chairman is to serve on the canvassing board, which helps oversee the handling of ballots and that a chairman cannot do if he or she is going to run for office, which many have been a reason Commissioner Kinnard did not actively seek the role when Commissioner Holly Davis suggested him for it.

At this time in the last election cycle, Dec. 9, 2019, there were 27 candidates that had filed for local office excluding state representative and state senate. Two days later, property appraiser candidate Rob Tessmer would become the 28th candidate and several more would follow in 2020.


Currently, we’re still at one: Diana Finegan who is running to replace Commissioner Kitchen.


Did you hear the music start? Now we wait for the political shuffle to begin.


A 750 word column about Citrus County published every Thursday and Sunday