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Brown-Waite challengers unfazed by re-election announcement

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 10, 2013 at 07:36 PM

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Democratic challenger Jim Piccillo said he entered the race thinking he was going to run against a vulnerable incumbent this November.

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite's announcement Friday night didn't change the landscape of the race for Florida's 5th Congressional District seat.

The four-time elected Republican congresswoman from Brooksville told the audience at the Citrus County Lincoln Day Dinner she was running for reelection.

The suspense, Piccillo said, was much ado about nothing and it only confirmed his confidence that voters are ready for someone else, he said.

"We never got overly optimistic she was going to retire," Piccillo said of Brown-Waite. "One thing you cannot predict is crazy and maybe a better way to say that is the one thing you can't predict is Ginny Brown-Waite ... We had our plans in place."

Piccillo isn't the congresswoman's only challenger.

Conservative political activist Jason Sager announced in October he would go up against Brown-Waite for the Republican nomination.

Like, Piccillo, he wasn't surprised with the congresswoman's announcement.

"She made it clear some time ago she was going to run for reelection," said Sager, who downplayed Brown-Waite's public announcement Friday night.

Brown-Waite also used the time Friday night at the dinner to announce she was getting married to Anthony "Tony" Selvaggio.

Her previous husband of 30 years, Harvey Waite, died in 2008 following a bout with pancreatic cancer.

The congresswoman and Selvaggio have not set a date for their wedding.

Brown-Waite told the audience she prayed to God about whether she should run, but received no answer.

"So I am here tonight to tell you that the Lord hasn't asked me to run again, but you have," she said. "Over 12,000 of you have signed my petitions and I have qualified for the ballot. I am here tonight to announce the opening of my campaign for Congress."

She said with the challenges the country is facing and the "hollow words" from President Obama, she could not retire.

"Given the crisis in Washington, my fire burns brighter than ever to serve you and I will fight the hardest I have ever fought because this campaign isn't about me," she continued. "It's about you, our country and our country's future."

Sager thinks the upcoming election will be a tell-tale sign that conservative voters are ready for more traditionalist candidates.

Brown-Waite and other Republicans across the country are facing challenges against grass-roots Tea Party activists, who place an emphasis on low taxes, decreased spending and small government.

"People are ready for a choice this year between progressive Republicans and constitutional Republicans," Sager said. "We want to relock the chains of the Constitution upon our federal government."

Piccillo earlier this week called on Brown-Waite to return $2,000 in campaign contributions from WellPoint, an insurance company that made the news for increasing premiums by 39 percent after posting a $2.7 billion profit.

He said it was an egregious example of Brown-Waite kowtowing to special interests.

"This district is clamoring for change in leadership and we're going to provide it," Piccillo said.

Both he and Sager joked about Brown-Waite's camp notifying the media Thursday the congresswoman was going to make a "big announcement" the following night.

It caused bloggers to speculate about whether the 68-year-old would retire.

"I'm not sure what all the hoopla was about," said Sager.

Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or

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