In what perhaps could be a close election, Bradenton’s Ward 5 incumbent Harold Byrd Jr. will square off against political newcomer Keenan Wooten on Nov. 8.
The two are members of families who have been long-time friends, but as the campaign process has moved forward, friendships have been broken and political lines in the sand have been drawn. Before Byrd filed for reelection, it took some consideration to do so, knowing what the political process can do to friends.
The biggest thing for me, is we always say Ward 5 is one of the more impoverished districts and it’s really disturbing to see the splitting of the community and families when there is so much work to be done.
Ward 5 City Councilman Harold Byrd Jr.
“Initially, I had some concern because I know how things can happen in a campaign,” Byrd said. “Unfortunately, I was pretty much right. The biggest thing for me, is we always say Ward 5 is one of the more impoverished districts and it’s really disturbing to see the splitting of the community and families when there is so much work to be done. I would have liked to have seen better energy of working together than to separate the camps just for a local council race.”
Wooten said it’s part of the political process that he did not expect.
“One thing I’ve learned is that it’s politics,” Wooten said. “But when I got into this, my opponent started with the name calling and doing things I was unfamiliar with and those are the facts. He’s proven himself to be immature, but I can’t stay focused on that. I’ve walked over 1,000 doors in Bradenton, seeing what the people of this city really want. We have problems in Ward 5 and I can’t indulge in political antics when my neighborhood is hurting.”
The two candidates have sparred at recent debates, including two fiery encounters on Oct. 6 at the Bradenton Herald debate and again on Oct. 19 at a LGBT Democratic Caucus candidate forum. However, with less than two weeks to go before voters make their final decisions, both candidates are in full-court-press mode.
“I think it’s down to just trying to execute the campaign we have in place and continue to get that message out,” said Byrd. “That message is that there have been a lot of great things happening and coming forward with the city and I want to continue as an experienced and proven decision maker.”
We have problems in Ward 5 and I can’t indulge in political antics when my neighborhood is hurting.
Ward 5 challenger Keenan Wooten
Byrd said if one thing has changed for him this election cycle is the importance of retaining millennials in Bradenton. Byrd said the council, partnering with Realize Bradenton, has had an emphasis on this for years, “but there has been a stronger message this year than in the past and there are things we can do as decision makers to further embrace those issues to keep the future residents of Bradenton here raising families.”
Wooten said the problems that first drove him to run for office remain his top priorities.
“When I first entered this race, I strategically looked at the neighborhood that I’m from and looked at different ways I can make a difference,” Wooten said. “I want to bring a new voice to this seat. The lack of responsiveness over this seat is unacceptable from the Bradenton Housing Authority devastation, the lack of CCRA presence, a community work station basically abandoned to the grocery store collapse. I still feel the same way from day one. We need a change and a new voice and I’m ready to serve.”
Name: Harold Byrd Jr.
Professional experience: Business consulting
Election experience: Byrd was first appointed to the city council in 1989, winning a four-year term until 1995. Byrd was reelected to the council in 2007 where he has served Ward 5 ever since.
Family: Married to his wife for 15 years, no children.
Name: Keenan Wooten
Professional experience: Student support specialist and athletic director at Electa Arcotte Lee Magnet Middle School.
Election experience: None
Family: Not married