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Argenziano: 'I fight with the bad guys'

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By Mike Wright

WHAT: State Representative District 34.
WHO: Independent Nancy Argenziano; Republican incumbent Jimmie T. Smith.
TERM: Two years.
COVERS: All of Citrus County and a small portion of Hernando County.
SALARY: $29,052.
ON THE BALLOT: Nov. 6 election.
ON THE WEB: www.chronicleonline.com/votersguide

CRYSTAL RIVER — Challengers to incumbents usually spend months getting their names out to voters.

That isn’t an issue for Nancy Argenziano, who faces incumbent Jimmie T. Smith in the Nov. 6 election for state House of Representatives District 34.

Argenziano is no stranger to Citrus County politics. She was first elected to the state House in 1996, then to the Florida Senate in 2002. She left the Legislature in 2007 to become a member of the Public Service Commission and resigned in October 2010 just months before her term ended.

Now Argenziano is back, this time hoping to boot Smith from office as a member of the Independent Party of Florida.

“It’s appropriate to go back and ring the bell,” she said.

Argenziano made her name via brash, no-holds-barred representation. She took on party leaders, influential lobbyists and special interest groups. Critics say she’s too brash, too difficult to work with.

And now that she’s not a member of either major political party, opponents say she will find no allies in Tallahassee.

Argenziano said she’s heard that before, and proved people wrong.

“That was said in nearly every election I’ve had,” Argenziano told the Chronicle Editorial Board last week. “I fight with the bad guys. I had great relationships with the good guys. There are still plenty of good guys left.”

She added: “The bad guys are always going to be the ones to say I can’t get along with everybody.”

On the other hand, Argenziano is sharply critical of Smith who, she said, voted 100 percent with Republican leadership on major bills.

“If he showed one ounce of independence I may not be in the race,” she said.

And she is perplexed by Smith’s claim that he is the most active legislator Citrus County has ever had.

“How does he know who came before him and what we did?” she said, referring to Citrus County legislators who served before him.

Argenziano’s choice to run as an Independent came about by accident. After leaving the PSC, Argenziano stayed in Tallahassee and planned a run for Congress. However, a new state law required anyone who wanted to switch parties to run for office need to do so within one year of qualifying. Argenziano, then a Republican, went to the local elections office and registered Independent — thinking it was the same as no-party affiliation.

When Argenziano announced her plans to run for the U.S. House as a Democrat, she learned she couldn’t because Independent is a viable political party and it was too late to change parties. She sued to have the law overturned but lost.

Argenziano said she won’t change parties again if elected to the state House.

“I think I’ve always been an independent,” she said.

Argenziano differs with Smith’s support for drug-testing bills, the education “parent trigger” bill, and legislation that stops local governments from enacting ordinances limiting the type and frequency of fertilizer.

Argenziano said she would support legislation allowing counties and cities to control fertilizer sales to stop pollution in water bodies like King’s Bay.

“We have an incredible resource right here that makes us a lot of money,” she said. “What he should be doing is protecting the resource.” 

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.