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By Lou Elliott Jones and Mark Scohier
Republicans, who now hold sway in voter registration in Levy County, will have a huge voice in both County Commission seats up for grabs in the Aug. 26 primary.
And in the county school board elections – which are nonpartisan races – all three incumbents were re-elected without opposition when candidate filing closed at noon Friday.
Incumbents Cameron Asbell of District 1, Robert Philpot of District 3 and Rick Turner of District 5 will hold on to their seats.
There are 10,461 registered Republicans, 10,391 Democrats and 4,767 independents or nonpartisan voters among the county’s 25,619 registered voters according to the Supervisor of Elections website.
Republican regstration has been steadily inching up in recent years, but gained in 2008 with the election of two Republicans–School Superintendent Robert Hastings and Property Appraiser Oz Barker.
The switch from Democrat to Republican picked up steam in 2012 when two of the hottest candidates in the sheriff’s race both entered the Republican primary. A number of voters said they switched registration to have a say in who would be the next sheriff after the primary was closed to all but Republicans by the candidacy of a Democrat.
On Wednesday, Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones told the Chiefland Rotary Club that the Aug. 26 Republican primary for the District 2 County Commission seat would be closed.
The race has incumbent Commissioner Chad Johnson facing Russell “Rock” Meeks in the Republican primary. The winner of the primary will face Robert Studstill, who registered as no party affiliation, in the general electipn on Nov. 4.
But, she said the primary for the District 4 commission seat ― whch features a re-run of the 2010 race between incumbent Ryan Bell and former commissioner Lilly Rooks, whom Bell unseated, was still open to all voters.
That changed on Friday with the last-minute candidacy of Democrat Jamie Griffin, who has already lost bids for District 1 County Commission in 2012 and to regain a seat on the Bronson Town Council in 2013. His candidacy closed the Republican primary for the District 4 seat.
Griffin, as recently as two weeks ago denied he would seek the county commission seat, saying he had acquired a residence in Cedar Key and would be seeking instead a seat on the Cedar Key Council.
Griffin, the one-time Bronson mayor and council member, was convicted of one count of grand theft and one count of scheming to defraud in 2004 after state and local investigators discovered he’d been stealing from town coffers.
Griffin admitted to stealing $200,000, part of which was meant to pay for expansion to the town’s park and for fixing problems at the historic Jackson House. Prosecutors sought to put him away for two years, but a judge sentenced him to one year and a day, provided he pay back the $200,000.
Griffin, a restauranteur and construction company owner, has said in the past he is seeking to redeem himself by being elected to office.
Voters have until July 28 to register or switch their registration for the Aug. 26 primary. They can do so by going to the Supervisor of Elections Office at 421 S. Court St. in Bronson, Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A online registration form is also available at the Supervisor of Elections website www.votelevy.com.
Prospective voters can also register at a Florida Driver’s License Office–a function performed at the county Tax Collector’s Offices in Chiefland, Bronson and Williston; at the county’s public libraries in Chiefland, Cedar Key, Bronson, Williston and Yankeetown; at a state agency that provides public assistance, a state agency that provides services to disabled persons, and an Armed Forces Recruiting