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Wells wins Pasco commission race; Moore gets primary nod

Published:   |   Updated: August 27, 2014 at 09:18 AM

WESLEY CHAPEL — Republican Mike Wells Jr. became the fourth commissioner in a row to win Pasco’s District 4 seat by ousting an incumbent. In the District 2 race, Mike Moore won the three-way Republican primary.

The son of the longtime Pasco County property appraiser and former county commissioner of the same name, Wells capitalized on his legacy to take more than two-thirds of the vote. He said the race was about leadership, and incumbent Henry Wilson hadn’t shown enough of it to warrant a second term.

“I’ve worked really hard for this,” Wells said. “I’ve met with thousands of people over the last four months, and I’m going to continue doing that. Not just in my district — I’m going to be all over the county.”

With no Democrat or write-in candidate in the race, Tuesday’s open primary determined the outcome and leaves Wilson a lame duck for the next three months.

Wilson, 40, was the driving force behind the county’s expanded recycling program and the creation of new employee health clinics.

But he clashed with other commissioners when he blocked a gas tax increase last year and when he voted against promoting County Administrator Michele Baker. He had notable endorsements from House Speaker Will Weatherford, Sheriff Chris Nocco, state Sens. Wilton Simpson and John Legg, and from future Speaker Richard Corcoran. The local police and fire unions also supported him, but none of it translated into dollars or votes. Wells outraised him 2 to 1.

“Honestly, I’m not sure what happened,” Wilson said. “I’ve still got a job to do until the middle of November, and I’m going to keep doing it.”

Wells, 42, is a former area manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He wants to focus on customer service and job creation, and he wants to increase communications with his constituents by starting a blog. He also has pledged more support for Baker.

“I’m going to spend the next three months getting up to speed so there’s less of a learning curve when I take office,” Wells said.

Longtime Commissioner Pat Mulieri’s retirement left the District 2 seat open. With a ton of endorsements and a $100,000 in campaign funds, Moore proved to be unstoppable in the primary. The 43-year-old from Wesley Chapel bested former state representative Ken Littlefield and Zephyrhills financial adviser Bob Robertson, winning more votes than his two opponents combined. He will face Democrat Erika Remsberg in November.

“I’m humbled,” Moore said. “I’m going to continue to work just as hard or harder. I’m not going to let up.”

Moore grew up in Winter Haven and graduated from UCF. He and his wife founded a successful home healthcare business and in 2011 sold it to a private equity firm. In 2012, he started a business sales, mergers and acquisitions company.

He is president of the Wesley Chapel Republican Club and has powerful friends —namely Weatherford and Simpson. Those alliances have helped direct even more outside money to his campaign.

Simpson has denied trying to influence the race, but his political committee, Jobs For Florida, gave $45,000 to a Tallahassee-based electioneering committee that produced TV commercials and direct mail pieces supporting Moore.