BRADENTON -- Manatee County residents will choose between a seasoned elected official and a newcomer for the District 5 Manatee County Commission seat Nov. 6.
With just over a month remaining until the general election, Republican candidate Vanessa Baugh and Democratic candidate James T. Golden participated in a candidate forum at the Manatee Education Television studios Wednesday.
The seat is being vacated by incumbent Donna Hayes, who did not seek re-election.
Baugh, a jewelry store owner from Lakewood Ranch, defeated John Colon in the primary to win the Republican nomination while Golden, a former Bradenton City Council member, defeated Frank Archino in the Democratic primary.
The candidates, interviewed by a panel consisting of Herald Editorial Page Editor Chris Willie, Herald Executive Editor Joan Krauter and Bay News 9 reporter Summer Smith, provided their views on the economy, growth, employee raises and government spending.
One of the most pertinent issues in Manatee County in recent weeks has been government employee raises.
Both candidates said they were in favor of raising salaries and each said it was long overdue.
"We have to get back to the reading, writing and arithmetic of that budget," Baugh said. "We need to look at what we truly need, what is the most important thing we have to do. Public safety affects everything. We have to make sure we give our sheriff what he needs for his people to make sure our crime stays down. If not, it's going to affect everything. Economic development? Who's going to want to live here if crime is high?"
Golden, a local attorney, said the problem should have been addressed years ago and said the raises still might not have been approved had not employees raised concerns at a county commission meeting.
"The question becomes, 'Do we deal with that problem now or do we wait another five years to solve that problem?' You're not making progress if you continue to put off problems because of the difficulty of solving it," Golden said.
Each candidate suggested ideas to spur economic growth and job creation.
Baugh said she would push for more investment in Port Manatee and said developers could use Lakewood Ranch as an example of using products and techniques that result in healthier, energy-efficient and environmentally responsible homes.
"We need to get some businesses moving into Manatee County. Let's let them come in, pay the taxes and keep our taxes low for our citizens. I think that's something we all need to look at very closely," Baugh said.
Golden suggested using money the county may receive from the BP oil spill, which some estimate to be between $4.7 and $19 million, to construct a first-class hotel to complement the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
"That will give us a long-term income flow and long-term assets to promote and maintain the quality of life here in Manatee County," Golden said.
Golden also suggested the county could benefit from expansion of the University of South Florida in the county.
"It is a project that can provide a needed infusion of capital," he said.
Baugh has raised over $60,000 in campaign contributions, while Golden has raised $9,300.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams.
Manatee County Commission District 5 candidates Manatee County Commission District 5 candidates Manatee County Commission District 5 candidates Name: Vanessa Baugh Age: 58 Place of residence: Lakewood Ranch Profession: jewelry store owner Family: married, 4 children Name: James Golden Age: 64 Place of residence: Bradenton Profession: pastor, self-employed Family: married, two children