Convincing GOP wins in most Manatee County election contests

November 7, 2012 

Manatee County's local political landscape shifted little in this general election, not unexpected since the number of registered Republicans surpasses Democrats here by 90,199 to 68,349. The other 51,639 voters hold the balance of power, but many turned into GOP allies to provide comfortable victories.

With our sharp focus here on Manatee County results, we find voters strongly embraced the current lineup of elected leaders with several Republican newcomers taking seats lacking incumbents. The city of Holmes Beach provided the only upset of the evening.

A nonpartisan contest provided the most interesting fireworks on the night with its partisan undertones. Incumbent Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston faced longtime City Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey along with Richard O'Brien, who entered the race after the other two announced.

This looks like a case of a Democrat, O'Brien, hoping to win the election as his two Republican opponents split the conservative vote. O'Brien came close, coming in second. But Poston carried the day by a slim margin -- and not a plurality. But since Bradenton eliminated runoff elections, Poston retains his post. Those who feared such a minority vote outcome can resume the debate.

Most major races produced predictable results for GOP stalwarts: Vern Buchanan returns to Congress for a fourth term representing Manatee and Sarasota counties in District 16. Florida Rep. Bill Galvano moves over to the state Senate in the District 26 seat in a landslide win, not unexpected given Galvano's stature in the district.

A pair of state House members won re-election handily to their second terms: Jim Boyd in District 71 and Greg Steube in District 73. Both found some success in Tallahassee this year.

In the nonpartisan contest for Manatee County school board, Dave "Watchdog" Miner's victory also holds little surprise given his 48.5 percent of the vote in August -- just shy of winning the seat outright against three opponents and avoiding a runoff. Miner, also a Republican, won overwhelmingly and now joins a board grappling with a financial crisis.

Manatee County Clerk of the Court R.B. "Chips" Shore returns to an office he has held for more than three decades. Termed-out state Sen. Mike Bennett becomes the county's new supervisor of elections. Bennett won against three Republicans in the tough primary, and his massive war chest and political support prevailed here again.

Betsy Benac, a first-time candidate, was a shoo-in for Manatee County Commission District 7 At-Large as her opponent did not mount a public campaign and did not respond to media queries. Larry Bustle returns for a second term in District 1, and Vanessa Baugh takes the District 5 seat for her first term -- both with landslide wins. The three Republican victories maintain the GOP edge on the board by a margin of 6-1.

Though he faced rugged opponents in the primary and general elections, Republican Ed Brodsky won his first term as 12th Judicial Circuit state attorney. The career prosecutor had the support of the circuit's chief law enforcement officers and officials.

In the city of Bradenton's other race, for the City Council seat being vacated by Barnebey, Gene Brown prevailed big over two other newcomers and community activists.

One small city race pitted two factions with land development and code enforcement as the hot issues. The nonpartisan mayoral and city commission contests in Holmes Beach provided voters with clear differences in the two slates of candidates -- incumbents and the status quo versus political novices advocating tighter growth controls. All three newcomers upset the officeholders, with Carmel Monti the new mayor and Judy Titsworth and Marvin Grossman the new commissioners. Residents are ready for change.

Overall, this general election proved the power of the Republican Party in Manatee County.

Coming Thursday: Commentary on the presidential contest and other election results.

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