Manatee commission candidates McClash, Benac spar in heated debate

skennedy@bradenton.comAugust 2, 2012 

BRADENTON -- It was a knock-down, drag-out hour of political debate Thursday between two District 7 county commission candidates

During the heated face-off between long-time Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash and his challenger, Betsy Benac, there were charges of slander and unethical behavior, and an unearthing of a controversial county commission vote on the Robinson Farms housing development.

The two also differed on how best to stimulate job growth and redevelop blighted urban areas.

Benac charged that McClash had collected more than $200,000 in federal Section 8 vouchers via his home rental business, a contention McClash dismissed as "slanderous."

McClash complained of "dirty, nasty" campaign tactics and called for campaign finance reform.

Sometimes, the packed audience at Pier 22 restaurant applauded one or the other of the two Republican candidates, sometimes it booed.

Each candidate attempted to impress voters, who will decide between them in the Aug. 14 primary election.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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