MANATEE — Name recognition won’t be a problem for either candidate in the race for the Manatee County Commission District 6 at-large seat.
Incumbent Carol Whitmore has two decades of political collateral on which to draw as she aims to retain the office she won four years ago.
Newcomer Sundae Lynn Knight has novelty on her side.
Her name is Sundae Knight.
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And Knight is using the unusual name to her advantage, trying to lure young voters by sprinkling the tagline “On Election Tuesday, please vote for Sundae” liberally throughout her speeches. Her campaign signs are emblazoned with the slogan “Cool name. Powerful platform.” And she sent out a telemarketing call to 55,000 registered voters younger than 55 that began with a voiceover yelling “Sundae, Sundae, Sundae” in the style of a monster truck ad.
“My approach to politics is a little bit different than most,” Knight said. “But I’m running for the board of county commissioners because I feel I bring a unique set of skills and knowledge that could be very valuable.”
Whether the professional engineer has enough to unseat Whitmore, who served Holmes Beach for 16 years as mayor and city commissioner, is a question only county voters can answer.
Whitmore, a 55-year-old Republican, will face the Democrat Knight, 39, in the Nov. 2 general election. All Manatee County voters will decide who gets the four-year term that pays $74,764 annually.
After winning the 2006 election, Whitmore quit her job in the health-care field to devote herself full-time to the commission.
She is proud of her first term, saying she has held the line on taxes and built relationships with other local governments by attending their meetings.
She is involved in several health care initiatives, including the sharing of indigent-care funds, the new residency program at Manatee Memorial Hospital and the trauma center at Blake Medical Center.
“This is a hard job. I’m running again because I love it,” Whitmore said. “If you’re in the position to do something, you made a difference. ... I like doing the work. I don’t want to be in charge, but I love trying to help people and get things going.”
Whitmore has set her sights for a second term on cultivating new business at Port Manatee, supporting the new zone of encouragement as a way to capitalize on the widening of the Panama Canal.
“I think there should be a new mindset at the port. The industry’s started to change, and I don’t think we’ve changed with it,” she said.
Knight, who also is a certified energy manager, says she has a passion for the environment and touts what she calls the “comprehensive greening of government.”
She said she will study the county’s processes, looking for ways to increase efficiency and reduce the “energy footprint” of county facilities.
Knight has criticized Whitmore for accepting considerable campaign donations from developers. Whitmore had raised $79,085 to Knight’s $3,337.80 through Sept. 24.
Whitmore said the contributions do not guarantee her support for development projects.
“All they ask is I return a phone call. That’s all they’ve ever asked. I return everybody’s phone call, including citizens’,” Whitmore said.
The two candidates differ in their opinions of County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, who has been criticized for making decisions without consulting commissioners.
Knight opposes the recent hiring of an organizational development manager without advertising the position, while Whitmore said the move was within Hunzeker’s authority.
“Ed is the administrator, and we set policy. ... I’m just trying to let him do his job. This county’s too big for me to micromanage,” Whitmore said.
Said Knight, “Policy-setting doesn’t make sure your tax dollars are well-spent.”