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CRYSTAL RIVER — Sheriff Jeff Dawsy faced his toughest competitor yet and still won handily.
State Rep. Jimmie T. Smith had the full muscle of the state Republican Party behind him to crunch a challenger with wide name recognition in Citrus County.
A little-known Lecanto High School teacher defeated a two-term school board incumbent.
Betty Strifler retired as clerk of court, but Strifler’s long-term assistant easily won election to replace her.
Citrus and surrounding counties picked a new public defender for the first time since 1980.
But the biggest name in 2012 politics, winning arguably the biggest race, was Scott Adams, an Inverness rancher/businessman who also owns a Sumter County landfill.
Adams, a business associate of Sen. Charlie Dean, defeated former county public safety director Charles Poliseno and two others in the August primary for a county commission seat vacated by Winn Webb, who ran for sheriff.
The race included several anti-Poliseno mail pieces and automated phone calls linked to a South Florida political committee. Both that organization and Adams used the same political company to mail the pieces, though Adams said he had nothing to do with the group targeting Poliseno.
Adams portrayed his campaign as anti-establishment and voters responded, giving him 40 percent in a four-person race. Poliseno was second with 27 percent.
Adams already is showing an independent streak.
He opened a Commissioner Scott Adams Facebook page that encourages suggestions and comments. The page warns users that anything printed there is subject to the state Sunshine Law.
While other commissioners were attacking Progress Energy Florida for withholding a significant portion of its property tax, Adams defended the company and instead accused administration of mismanagement.
Just Sunday, Adams wrote on his Facebook page: “I challenge my fellow commissioners to stop blaming Duke (Progress Energy) for our current dismal financial management. It is time to focus on a prudent and balanced budget — as evidenced by successful business.”
Other election highlights:
* Commissioner Joe Meek was re-elected to a second term. Meek is now the board chairman and remains chairman of the Citrus County Economic Development Council. Dennis Damato was re-elected to a third term.
* Dawsy, who said two years ago he wouldn’t seek re-election, changed his mind after the county transferred control of fire services to his agency. He defeated Webb with 60 percent of the vote.
* Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam”
Himmel survived a challenge from Academy of Environmental Sciences teacher Sandy Balfour.
* U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Brooksville, easily won re-election against Democrat David Werder, who spent much of his public appearances telling jokes.
* State Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, with $110,000 in cash and paid staffers from the Republican Party of Florida and countless thousands from special-interest organizations, defeated Nancy Argenziano with 58 percent of the vote.
Argenziano, who served Citrus County in the state House and Senate, and also is a former member of the state Public Service Commission, was the target of numerous attack mail pieces. She sued the Republican Party of Florida for one piece that said she “violated the law” by attempting to switch to the Democratic Party to run for Congress in Tallahassee.
Argenziano blamed her defeat on Smith’s special-interest backing.
* Newcomers: Angela Vick elected clerk of court; Susan Hale to the school board; and Mike Graves as Fifth Judicial Circuit public defender.
Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or email@example.com.