MANATEE -- Manatee County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino has resigned from the local Republican Party's executive committee after what she said were accusations by fellow Commissioner Betsy Benac she had helped a Democratic candidate running against their fellow GOP Commissioner Carol Whitmore.
DiSabatino said Wednesday that Benac had complained that DiSabatino had been campaigning for Terri Wonder, a Democrat challenging Whitmore for an at-large seat seat on the county commission in the Nov. 4 general election.
"The Democrats were helping me in my open primary," explained DiSabatino. "The allegation was I was helping (Democratic commission candidate) Terri Wonder when they were helping me because it was an open primary."
If all the candidates for an office are of the same party affiliation, and the winner of the primary election will not face a write-in or other candidate in the general election, then a voter may cast their ballot for any of the candidates in the primary election, regardless of the voter's party registration.
"In order to keep the peace, I decided it's not worth anyone getting upset about it, so I decided that I didn't need to be on the executive committee," said DiSabatino.
The party's executive committee serves as an umbrella organization for all the local Republican clubs, DiSabatino said.
DiSabatino, who beat a Republican challenger for a second term on the commission in the Aug. 26 primary election, said she was now focused on the needs of her constituents. No Democrats filed for the seat.
Benac said that at a recent meeting of the committee, there was concern about a campaign flier that had a photograpg of both Wonder and DiSabatino on it, in which DiSabatino appeared to be campaigning in violation of committee rules.
When asked about that, DiSabatino said, "If I want to get my picture taken next to someone, I don't want to have to ask if they're Republican or not."
Benac said the committee heard the issue but did not take any action.
"I was so surprised to hear Robin tell me she had resigned, but I respect her decision to do what she thinks is right," said Benac.
Whitmore said she had been at the meeting during which the matter was discussed but did not know DiSabatino had resigned.
"I was at the meeting but don't know why she resigned," said Whitmore. "I guess I would have heard it; she's been a longtime member."
Kathleen King, chair of the Republican Party of Manatee, said in answer to an email question from the Herald that DiSabatino resigned "completely on her own accord and against my advice and that of the committee."
There was no truth to rumors that DiSabatino had been dumped from the executive committee, King wrote.
"No truth in that at all," she wrote.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.