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Damato edges third term

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By Chris Van Ormer

In a close race, voters returned Commissioner Dennis Damato to District 1.

Damato carried 37.53 percent – with 9,299 votes — against Ron Kitchen’s 35.82 percent accounting for 8,875 votes.

Renee Christopher-McPheeters trailed with 6,602 votes, amounting to 26.65 percent of the ballots cast.

Damato admitted the initial tally of early voting results was worrying.

“We didn’t like the first numbers, but we felt that when Sugarmill Woods and Citrus Hills came in that would make the game-breaker,” Damato said. “I’m honored that the voters of Citrus County gave me a third term on the Board of County Commissioners. I think the voters like what the board has done in general.”

Although voters didn’t push far enough for Kitchen, he said he expected to be neck and neck with Damato.

“I figured I had a 50-50 shot,” Kitchen said, pointing out that he had spent far less money on his campaign than Damato spent on his.

“Please give Dennis my congratulations. I think we both ran a good, fair campaign,” Kitchen said.

Christopher-McPheeters said voters weren’t well informed about her policies and opinions regarding previous commission decisions, specifically the county’s purchase of Ottawa Avenue from Citrus Hills. She also said her gender might have had a negative influence on the outcome.

“I wish that people would have been more informed,” Christopher-McPheeters said. “For example, the Chronicle gave an endorsement of my opponent, (Dennis) Damato, and made mention about Ottawa, and that another opponent mentioned about Ottawa, when I was the only candidate who opposed the Ottawa fiasco at the county commission. They weren’t really objective of me because I’m a woman.”

Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer can be reached at cvanormer@chronicleonline.com or 352-564-2916. Chronicle intern Buster Thompson contributed to this report.