Citrus County Commission District 4 race features familiar names

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A word that best describes the Citrus County Commission District 4 race: amenable.

Unlike the contentious District 2 race, the three Republican candidates in District 4 — Rebecca Bays, John Murphy Jr. and Winn Webb — have exhibited respect for one another publicly throughout the campaign.

For Bays and Webb, this is old hat. Both served one term on the County Commission — their terms overlapped during a two-year stretch — and they’ve pointed to that experience on the campaign trail.

This is Murphy’s first try at elected office, but he’s no stranger to the process. He has led the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce’s government affairs committee, serving as a conduit on behalf of small businesses to state and local government.

With only Republicans on the ballot, the race is open to all voters, and the Primary winner is elected.

Of the three, Bays was the least likely County Commission candidate when the campaign season started in earnest late last year.

Bays, who served in office from 2010-14, had set her sights on House District 23. When Rep. Ralph Massullo announced his campaign for Senate District 11, Bays jumped into the HD 23 race.

Those plans hit a wall in March when Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted his endorsement for Massullo’s SD 11 opponent, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia. Massullo dropped the Senate race two days later and fell back into re-election, placing Bays in a position of either taking on a three-term incumbent or going to for County Commission.

After taking a few weeks to think about it, Bays dropped the HD 23 campaign for County Commission District 4.

Webb, who served from 2008-12, spoke of holding taxes in line during his time in office and pledged to do the same.

Murphy and Bays share support in the business community. Murphy’s wife, Trina Murphy, is publisher of the Citrus County Chronicle where John Murphy works as digital manager. The newspaper endorsed Murphy’s candidacy.

Webb was endorsed by the Citrus Crusader, a digital newsletter run by Inverness resident John Labriola, self-named Citrus County representative of the anti-LGBTQ group MassResistance.

Bays said the county should have a long-range transportation plan, and she favors returning concurrency regulations that would ensure developers provide needed improvements to roads to handle the new traffic.

Murphy’s focus is economic development. He cited examples of the county’s lack of action or follow through which damaged attempts to attract new businesses, expand current ones, or seek grants for educational programs.

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