With Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie not seeking re-election, residents living in West Bradenton and on Anna Maria Island will have a new District 3 commissioner beginning next month.
Three candidates — Matt Bower, Steve Jonsson and David Zaccagnino — are vying to succeed Chappie, who was first elected in 2008.
Since two of the candidates — Bower and Zaccagnino — have no party affiliation and Jonsson is a Republican, the race automatically went to the Nov. 8 election. Early voting begins Monday and runs until Nov. 5.
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Jonsson is leading in campaign contributions with $74,304.75 to date. Bower has received $28,574.16 and Zaccagnino has received $19,470.
There is a possibility that the next District 3 commissioner could be without a party affiliation.
For Bower, a financial adviser and planning commission member, he said it further illustrates he doesn’t take sides.
“I’m not politically driven, and I’m not afraid of any political consequences of the decisions that I make,” he said. “I make decisions based on what’s best for us, not based on what’s best for one side or another or any special interest.”
Sometimes things on the commission get too partisan, said Zaccagnino, who is also a financial adviser and former Holmes Beach commissioner.
“Right now, we are seeing it with my opponents, special interest, dark money and PAC money. Different committees lining up behind them,” he said. “My only interest is the people. I always thought whatever person, whatever issue is the best solution, that’s the one I’ve always gone with, not a particular party.”
As the lone Republican in the race, Jonsson, who has received contributions from developers, said it is a partisan race.
“I think as a lifelong Republican I believe in the values of the Republican Party,” said Jonsson, who is a banker. “Its fiscal conservativeness and the rights of the people.”
With all the projects approved in District 3, traffic and maintaining the quality of life is the biggest issue facing the district, according to Jonsson.
“I think I have the most experience living in this district 36 years,” he said. “I think I bring a business and fiscally conservative approach to the budgeting process here in Manatee County.”
For Zaccagnino, quality of life issues such as growth, the environment and traffic are the biggest issues facing the district.
“The island has been kind of a microcosm of what has been happening in West Bradenton,” he said. “I am what the county needs right now. A lot of big issues in the next four years, they don’t need a rookie at the wheel.”
The need for proactive traffic solutions is the biggest issue facing District 3, Bower said.
“I found that we are always reactive to our traffic problems, installing short term Band-Aids that put us further and further behind,” he said. “I am a different type of leader. I have proven to be the voice of the people. My motto is people before developers.”
All three candidates support the county’s proposed half-cent sales tax, which is also on the Nov. 8 ballot.
While Bower said he supports the sales tax, there are $115 million worth of projects that the county is proposing would be funded using the revenue that aren’t needed or already done.
“I definitely think we need the sales tax, but I need to be in there to implement the plan I have illustrated on my website,” he said. “Without clear accountability and transparency and ensuring our first responders are the top priority, it is doomed to failure.”
As a member of the county’s Citizens Financial Structure Advisory Board, which recommended the half-cent sales tax to the commission, Zaccagnino said he realized this was the best option the county had.
“The half-cent sales tax is going to help the traffic, help the environment,” he said. “It’s going to help some of the growth and also the bottom line on the budget.”
The half-cent sales tax would be an additional funding source for the county, Jonsson said.
“I would hate to see us have to potentially go back to voters and have to raise ad valorem taxes,” he said. “I would rather see us with another funding source.”
Election experience: None
Professional experience: United States Army for seven years; chief operating officer of a law firm for 15 years; financial adviser for two years
Family: Married with a son
Name: Steve Jonsson
Election experience: None
Professional experience: Banker in Manatee County since 1978
Family: Widower with two children
Name: David Zaccagnino
Election experience: Holmes Beach commissioner for nine years
Professional experience: Chemist with the Department of Environmental Protection for five years; 17 years in financial services
Family: Married with three children