Smith, Argenziano defend methods

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By Mike Wright

LECANTO — State Rep. Jimmie T. Smith discussed the need for jobs in Citrus County, while challenger Nancy Argenziano accused the incumbent of bowing to Republican Party interests. Some highlights during the Chronicle forum:

* Political style is an issue in the race.

Smith, a first-term legislator, said he works with Democrats on his bills and isn’t offended if he loses.

He said he passed 10 bills his first two years and all of them had Democratic support.

“If I lose, I don’t get angry,” Smith said. “It’s not about me.”

Argenziano, who served Citrus in the House and Senate, said Smith’s 100 percent support of Republican leadership is not good for constituents.

“I was born with a brain to use and to think. It’s called independent thinking,” Argenziano said. The comment brought a smattering of boos in the audience.

* Argenziano said her experience in the Legislature is to always keep constituents in mind.

“I have fought and I have fought for this district,” she said.

As for Smith’s 100 percent support from Republican leadership, Argenziano said: “I can’t believe that’s what people really want.”

* More on the 100 percent issue, Argenziano said: “Our water would be in Tampa long ago if I said yes to everything they wanted.”

* Argenziano was asked about her confrontational style. Argenziano said she is confrontational when necessary. She also said its her observation that men are not criticized for being confrontational, “but it’s different for women?”

* Questions to candidates came from the Chronicle Editorial Board. One question posed to Smith asked why he recommended Robert Goocher Sr., the father of the Democratic candidate for state House, to the Citrus County Hospital Board of Trustees.

Smith said he asked both sides in the Citrus Memorial Health System dispute to send him a list of potential candidates and the hospital board complied.

“I looked over it and forwarded the list” to Gov. Rick Scott, he said.

Argenziano took advantage of the question and said that Goocher’s son was a candidate propped up by the Republican Party to draw votes from Argenziano in the November election, had he advanced to the general election. It didn’t work, she said, because Lynn Dostal stayed in the Democratic primary, beat Goocher, and then dropped from the race.

“The whole thing stinks to high heaven,” Argenziano said.

* Asked about public funding for private schools, Smith said he favors it if it helps students succeed. Asked if private schools that receive tax money should be held to the same mandates as public schools, Smith said he’d rather that standards for successful districts be dropped.

Argenziano said she flatly opposes public money for private schools. “The intent is to get rid of public schools,” she said.

* Argenziano closed by asserting: The Legislature is corrupt and that she can help fix it.

“It’s being sold every day,” she said. “If that doesn’t anger you, it should.”

She added: “I’ve never sold you out no matter what they dangled over my head.”

Argenziano also said she proudly is running as an Independent.

“What’s a conservative, what’s a liberal? It’s all a bunch of bunk,” she said. “You can count on me to think on my own.”

* Smith, in his closing statement, reiterated the need to broaden the economy by providing vocational opportunities. He said jobs are available but skilled workers are not.

He said the key is working well with other lawmakers.

“Do we want people up there who just say no?” he said. “I don’t work party lines. I work for Citrus County.”

WHAT: State Representative District 34
WHO: Independent Nancy Argenziano; Republican incumbent Jimmie T. Smith.
TERM: 2 years.
COVERS: All Citrus County and small portion of Hernando County.
PAY: $29,052
ON THE BALLOT: Nov. 6 election.
ON THE WEB: www.chronicleonline.com/votersguide