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published: Friday, April 13, 2012
Candidates line up to take on supervisor of elections
MILLARD K. IVES | Staff Writer
She handily won every Lake County's Supervisor of Election race since entering the political arena in 1972.
But this year, Emogene Stegall, the county's longest serving public official and only elected Democrat, has the longest line of Republican candidates hoping to face her yet.
The three opponents for the Aug. 14 Republican primaries: Margie Lynn Eaton, a judicial assistant; Keith A. Farner, a Lake County jail corrections officer; and Paul Avery Richardson, a marketing executive in between jobs.
The 85-year-old Stegall, who's running for her 11th term, said she's in good health and has no plans of retiring from public service anytime soon. The Florida chapter of the National Association of Social Workers recently presented Stegall with the 2012 Elected Public Official of the Year award for her outstanding contributions in public service.
"I feel I have an outstanding record to run on," said Stegall, who spent a recent Saturday at the Black Bear Festival in Umatilla registering voters.
The winner of the Republican Primary will face Stegall in the fall election. All said they thought it was time for a change for the head of the county's Supervisor of Elections Office.
Farner, 50, of Leesburg, as an elected official with the county's Water Authority, overseeing a $4.2 million budget, is the only Republican candidate with political experience.
"I have nothing bad to say about Stegall and I won't," said Farner, who said his biggest interest is protecting the interests of the voters. "I just think it's time for some new blood."
Eaton, 48, of Eustis, works for an Orange County judge. She wants to provide more cross training for elections office employees, do more to keep up with technology and ensure voters are using all the resources available.
"I want to make sure the office is running as effectively and efficiently as possible," said Eaton, who currently has a political booth set up at the Lake County Fair.
Eaton added she feels when someone has served as long as Stegall has, "complacency sets in and change is less welcome." But she admits that the winner of the Republican primaries will have a big hill to climb to beat the Stegall name.
In 2008, Stegall's opponent, deputy Mike Smalt, who said he was hoping to ride the wave for "change" created by then presidential candidate Barack Obama, collected only about 37 percent of the vote.
He attributed his loss to the name recognition built-up by Stegall.
"The biggest challenge is the name recognition," Eaton
Richardson, 31, of Clermont, said he wants to move the county's Supervisor of Elections Office into the "21st century." His biggest goal is to get rid of paper ballots in exchange for electronic voting, adding voters could be given a receipt of the candidate choice they made.
"This should satisfy Florida's paper trail laws," he said.
Richardson also cited the same obstacle of Stegall's name.
However, Stegall said she has more than name recognition. She counts among her accomplishments in office: Recruiting large numbers of unregistered voters to the rolls, educating voters better so they can make informed decisions and just making voting easier.
"I have made big strides for the office," Stegall said.