Rebecca Bays is heading back to the Citrus County Commission.
The former Commissioner, who served one term a decade ago, bested a three-candidate District 4 field that included John Murphy Jr. and former Commissioner Winn Webb.
According to unofficial results, Bays won with 38%, followed by Murphy at 33% and Webb at 29%.
Bays thanked supporters at a Primary night celebration at Cove Pub and Grub in Inverness.
“Citrus County has been discovered,” she said. “It’s precious to us. We need to make sure it remains precious to us.”
Unlike the contentious District 2 race, the three Republican candidates in District 4 exhibited respect for one another publicly throughout the campaign.
For Bays and Webb, this was 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 was Murphy’s first try at elected office.
With only Republicans on the ballot, the race was open to all voters.
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 for a County Commission seat.
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 favored returning concurrency regulations that would ensure developers provide needed improvements to roads to handle the new traffic.
Murphy’s focus was 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.