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No Shortage Controversy with Hernando County Political Candidates

HERNANDO – As Primary Election Day draws near, candidates are putting away their mud pies and preparing to watch the results with nervous anticipation.

Hernando County is notoriously vitriolic, when it comes to dirty politics and mudslinging. Candidates in past races who have attempted running "clean" campaigns, have ultimately found out the hard way that it's not a conducive strategy to winning. There is a well-known "secret" among the local elite, that if you aren't part of the Good Ol' boy club, you aren't welcome in the treehouse. There have been a few politicians to skate threw an election without kissing the ring, but for the most part, it's a private club.

The most controversial races are those with District 3 and District 5 School Board candidates. There are also some interesting details in the race for District 2 County Commissioner.

Let's go over some of the fact.

Incumbent Jimmy Lodato is up against State Representative Blaise Ingoglia's favorite, Shannon Rodriguez for the District 3 School Board seat. Both are Republicans, but Ingoglia has turned up the heat to try and convince voters that Lodato is no Republican and that he's wrong for the children of Hernando County. Through his Government Gone Wild PAC, sources say Ingoglia spent upwards of a half-million dollars smearing Lodato with accusations he intentionally allowed pornographic material in school libraries, forced children to wear masks, and allowed an accused sex offender to work at Suncoast Elementary School. In addition, Republicans question why Lodato flip flopped from Democrat to Republican, when he ran for School Board in 2018. Lodato denies having knowledge of the lewd material and questions why the issue wasn't raised until right before the election. District 5 School Board candidate Monty Floyd published several unusual Youtube videos, where he reads word-for-word the lewd content found in several books.

Lodato has not responded to the mudslinging in-kind, instead he has stuck with promoting his platform and propping up the half-cent sales tax he spearheaded during the last election. Jimmy also touts industry he says is poised to move to Hernando County if he remains on the board.

Lodato's challenger, Dynasty Automotive owner Shannon Rodriguez, has her own issues to deal with, but with Ingoglia's influence and deep pockets, her chances of beating Lodato are pretty good.

Recently, allegations that Rodriguez attempted to bribe a local journalist into not writing negative articles about her have emerged. Allegedly, Rodriguez gave R News Reporter Tom Lemons $1,500 to help sponsor an assignment in Ukraine, earlier this year, as a down payment towards a future ad on the R News website. Since the payment was received, several attempts to publish the ad have been made, but Rodriguez kept telling Lemons, "Not yet, closer to the election." During the transaction, Rodriguez told Lemons, "Make sure you don't write anything bad about me." Thinking she was kidding, Lemons responded, "Don't do anything to make me write anything bad about you." Rodriguez has also avoided numerous attempts to participate in interviews. On July 24th, Lemons spoke with Rodriguez by phone to ask about conducting an interview, but she again declined and said she wasn't ready. She further stated that she does not speak to the media at all and does not do interviews, but that wasn't true. On the day prior to that phone call, Rodriguez conducted an interview with another publication that, coincidently, is controlled by Blaise Ingoglia.

Republicans Mike Fulford, Brian Hawkins, and former Dawn Center community organizer April Johnson-Spence are running for the District 2 County Commission seat. Johnson-Spence used to be the Ingoglia favorite, but after a shakeup between the two, Ingoglia turned his back on her. Hawkins and Fulford have run immaculate campaigns, and there really isn't anything controversial to speak of between the two, other than Hawkins is the Ingoglia favorite. Johnson-Spence, on the other hand, has a lot to explaining to do with local Republicans.

Republicans already suspected that Johnson-Spence was sympathetic to progressive ideologies, after working for Dawn Center, which is funded through grants provided by President Joe Biden's signature Violence Against Women's Act. She's also an advocate for the controversial, anti-Republican #METOO movement. Republicans are now seeing a clear picture of who is truly loyal to Johnson-Spence, through multiple endorsements by liberal organizations. The most notable endorsement comes from the long-time Democrat supported environmentalist group, Sierra Club, the same organization that endorsed Charlie Crist for Governor and Val Demings for U.S. Senate. Finally, the Hernando Classroom Teachers Associations has endorsed Johnson-Spence, which primarily endorses Democrat candidates. Johnson-Spence claims to be a fiscal conservative and life-long Republican, but voters will have a chance to decide if that's true when they cast their votes tomorrow.

There is some sad news to report. The race for State Representative in District 2 used to have three candidates until the untimely death of 66-year-old Andrew Marc Curtis. Sources say Curtis died at his home in The Villages on July 3rd. Rock Daze and John Temple are now left to go head-to-head for the seat.

The polls are open tomorrow from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

R News will publish election results on our Facebook page at Adventure Coast Journal.


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