LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The subject of residency and invested service in Manatee County is creating tension between county commission candidates Vanessa Baugh and John Colon.
Baugh, who has owned a jewelry business in Lakewood Ranch since 2005, did not officially move into the county until 2010. Colon, a financier with Wells Fargo Advisors, has owned a home in Manatee since 2000.
"It's important for people to know she's running for county commission after only living here a year and half," Colon said.
The two are running to represent District 5 on the county commission. The district is comprised of areas in East Manatee, including Lakewood Ranch.
Bob Sweat, the county supervisor of elections, said there are no stipulations that say a candidate must live in the county for a certain period of time. Sweat did say a candidate for county commission must live in the district they want to represent.
"She's met all of the requirements," Sweat said.
According to county officials, Baugh first registered to vote in Florida in Sarasota County in 2000. She first registered to vote in Manatee County in 2010.
Baugh submitted her bid to run for the District 5 seat in April of 2011. Colon and Baugh are running for the seat being vacated by incumbent Donna Hayes.
Baugh said she rented a house in Lakewood Ranch for six months in 2010 before leasing a house from Dorothy Schmitt in Lakewood Ranch on Nov. 5, 2010, according to a lease agreement supplied by Baugh. The lease expires on Nov. 30.
Baugh and her husband own a home in Sarasota, which she leased to a couple in December of 2010.
"The only people to argue
(my investment in Manatee) are not familiar with me and my involvement in the community," she said.
Baugh said she has been involved with the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund, which awards grants to local nonprofit organizations, and the Kiwanis Club of Lakewood Ranch, to name a few.
Things got heated during a televised political forum at Manatee Education Television studios in Bradenton last month when Colon suggested he was the only candidate between the two to pay property taxes in Manatee County for an extended period of time, suggesting his opponent is not a fixture in Manatee. Baugh countered and presented paperwork to support her claim that Colon simultaneously lived in Sarasota and Manatee.
"I'm not sure who you're referring to, John," she said sternly.
The document is a Sarasota Housing Authority advisory board application signed by Colon in September of 2007. On the document, Colon marked a box affirming his residency in Sarasota and when asked on the application "how long have you lived in Sarasota", he wrote two years. Colon said it's meant to imply how long he's owned the property.
Colon said the address listed is a home he purchased for his mother. He said he stayed with his mother in Sarasota for a few months.
Baugh insists she is a Manatee County resident and figure in the Manatee community.
"I've invested money to move my business here and this is where I wanted to be," Baugh said. "It's obvious I love this community."
The winner of the Aug. 14 primary will face the winner of the Democratic primary, Frank Archino or James Golden, in the Nov. 6 general election.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7049. Tweet @_1NickWilliams.