Candidates speak out at forum

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

If anyone came expecting fireworks at the candidates forum hosted by VFW Post 5625 and the Chiefland Citizen, they were likely to come away disappointed. But hopefully they came away better informed. 

The event on Friday Aug. 1, at the VFW Post in south Chiefland, likely the only candidates forum being held before the Aug. 26 primary, drew about 30 people for the steak dinner beforehand, and candidates and their surrogates from the County Commission District 2 and District 4 races and the Congressional District 3 race.

Attending from:

District 2 — incumbent Chad Johnson (R), and surrogate Russell Meeks standing in for his son, Rock Meeks (R), who was attending a visitation; and Robert Studstill (No party). 

District 4 — incumbent Ryan Bell (R) and Jamie Griffin (D). The other candidate in the Republican primary, Lily Rooks, when contacted by phone earlier in the week, said she was unable to attend as she was going to a friend’s visitation and she declined to send a surrogate in her place. 

In the Congressional race, attending were Jake Rush (R), Marihelen Wheeler (D), and Kat Cammak, campaign manager for incumbent Ted Yoho (R), who was tied up in Washington, D.C. with late votes on legislation before Congress took a five-week break. 

Also in attendance was state Rep. Charlie Stone (R-District 22) of Ocala who took the opportunity to thank voters for their support. Stone, first elected unopposed in 2012, had no opposition again this year. Stone, who represents western Marion County and all of Levy County, noted that this is the first time in a long time that the county is represented by one legislator rather than being carved into pieces and having several representatives. 

“I will be there for you for two years,” Stone said. The representative said one thing he learned in Tallahassee was that his years of experience as a county commissioner helped him. “If you don’t have somebody in the Florida House that understands about local government you never know what you are going to end up with in legislation.”

Levy County School Board Member Chris Cowart of Cedar Key (District 2), who is not running for office, also thanked the audience for its support of the school board. 

Each candidate was afforded three minutes to introduce themselves and then questions were posed and each candidate. 

Johnson, in his introduction stressed his local ties, that he is a small businessman and has contributed to many community organizations.  “I am a strict Constitutionalist,” he said, and mentioned he is a strong advocate of private property rights. 

“We must not lose sight of those things that make this a great place to live work and play,” Johnson said. He also stressed his credentials as a certified and advance county commissioner and his work with the Small Counties Coalition. 

Russell Meeks, the candidate’s father, told the audience while he could not speak on his son’s positions, he said he has been interested in politics when he was 18 years old. “He was elected to the Otter Creek Council, the youngest person in the country to do so.” He said his son is active in the community.

Studstill thanked the veterans present in the audience for their service before talking about himself. He stressed his roots as a fourth gen