The crowded field in the GOP primary for the post of Manatee County Supervisor of Elections gives registered Republicans a diverse slate of candidates to replace the retiring Bob Sweat. A termed-out state senator, a former county commissioner, an architect and a finance manager are vying to win the nomination in the Aug. 14 primary and compete in the November general election.
Sweat leaves an impressive legacy after serving the public for 28 years as supervisor and elevating the office into a model for the state with his leadership on technology advances in the voting system. His record of controversy-free elections is equally commendable.
In announcing his pending retirement in January, Sweat stated that he was proudest of initiating changes that made voting "very, very accessible, very easy to use." We encourage his replacement to embrace that philosophy as well.
Ed Bailey, the operating partner in his parents' real estate company, holds the credentials and experience to fulfill that heritage. His leadership skills and community involvement make him a strong candidate.
His opponents are Richard Bedford, an architect and Manatee County Planning Commission chairman; Mike Bennett, an electrical contractor, real estate investor and state senator; and Jane Von Hahmann, former Manatee County commissioner and businesswoman.
In 2007, Bailey became the first Republican elected president of the Manatee County NAACP, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to voter outreach, education and participation. That experience should put him in a position to see past the political implications of this office.
With the issue of ineligible voters on the rolls in the spotlight, Bailey vows to ensure the integrity of the electoral process by ongoing checks of death certificates and juror records so only living citizens participate in balloting. All of the candidates also cite this issue as the most important one facing the supervisor's office.
Bailey is a trustee of State College of Florida, appointed to his alma mater by Gov. Rick Scott. He also sits on the board of directors of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, is a former director of the Suncoast Workforce Board, and he served on the boards of Habitat for Humanity and the Headstart Policy Council.
A former sergeant in the Marine Corps, Bailey's record of service is strong. This is his first attempt at elected public office.
This GOP primary offers voters good choices to face Democrat Charles Williams Jr. and write-in candidate Rodney "Smokey" Smithley in November's general election.
The Herald Editorial Board finds Bailey to be the best Republican in this primary contest. His experience in promoting voter registration and participation, a key component of this office, stands out among the candidates.
We recommend Ed Bailey as the GOP candidate for Manatee County Supervisor of Elections.
Candidates who do not receive the Herald Editorial Board's endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 300 words by 5 p.m. the day after the endorsement appears in print. Those can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 745-7047.
View candidate forums
Several weeks ago, The Herald, in partnership with Manatee Educational Television, videotaped candidate forums in these contested races.
These forums can be viewed on www.bradenton.com on the "Recent Multimedia" page.
METV is also regularly airing all the forums, and the station can be viewed on Brighthouse channel 614, Verizon FIOS 31 and Comcast 19. For METV airtimes, visit www.metvweb.com.