With qualifying ending on Friday, four candidates locked down their bids to become mayor of Bradenton, including incumbent Mayor Wayne Poston, who seeking a fifth term, former mayor Bill Evers and two political newcomers.
In all, nine candidates are vying for three offices, including three for the Ward 1 and two for the Ward 5 seats on the city commission.
The election is Nov. 8.
Poston finds himself in a crowded race with community activist Eleuterio Salazar Jr., former Bradenton deputy police chief Warren Merriman and Evers.
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Poston said his campaign has a strategy in place that includes a door-to-door ground campaign, speeches and neighborhood meetings.
“But until we get past the (Aug. 30) primaries we aren’t looking to do too much. Even though we aren’t involved with that, I think a lot of people are paying more attention to that,” said Poston. “Our campaign is at the ready and it’s going to be about pushing a button and taking off. I feel really good and have talked to a lot of people who like where the city is heading. I am comfortable that the voters will see that I have a record of success and they will want that to continue.”
Salazar said he believes voters are ready to go into a new direction.
“We’ve got a great gound team, and that’s what it will take to win this race,” said Salazar. “At the end of the day, I firmly believe canvassing is what it will take, and we’ll continue to focus on knocking on every single door and showing the people that there is someone new in this race that is not an establishment politician. I’m in this race to fight for the people and give them a voice.”
Merriman, who was fired from the police department after he was charged with theft, said he is dedicated to restoring faith in the strong mayor form of government. In February, he was convicted of one count of misdemeanor theft for submitting hours he did not work during an off-duty detail, and sentenced to three months probation.
“There is a lot of work to do,” Merriman said. “Like many others, I don’t want a return to last century’s leadership style. There is a whole generation of work force the mayor is out of touch with. It’s going to be an interesting race and I look forward to it.”
Evers, at 81 years old, said the age factor has been used against him before and noted he would make his medical records public to show that he is in “perfect” shape to hold office once again.
“I check the obituaries every day to make sure I’m not in there,” Evers joked. “All I can tell the voters is that if I die in office, I’ll die trying.”
Evers is calling for up to 20 debates leading up to November’s election.
“The whole reason I’m running is because the city is heading in the wrong direction,” he said. “I want to return the city back to the people and give them a break on taxes and not the big businesses and special interests. I’m hoping to have 15 or 20 debates because it’s going to be tough to raise money and the only way to get our message out there is to debate and get this stuff out in the open and then let the voter decide.”
In the city’s Ward 5 race, incumbent Councilman Harold Byrd Jr. will face off against political newcomer Keenan Wooten.
The city’s Ward 1 seat has three qualified candidates, with long-time incumbent Gene Gallo taking on the two challengers, Tamara Goudy and Devon Davis, the wife of mayoral candidate Merriman.
Palmetto and Anna Maria Island
In Palmetto, voters will not go to the polls to choose city leaders. Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant and at-large commissioners Jonathan Davis and Tamara Cornwell were automatically reelected, when no one filed to challenge them.
On Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach Ward 2 Commissioner Edward Straight will automatically retain his seat after no challengers came forward. In Ward 4, William Vincent has qualified and faces off against Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, who is vacating his county seat.
In Anna Maria, Mayor Dan Murphy appears to have retained his seat with no qualified candidates coming forward. Commissioners Chuck Webb and Nancy Yetter face a challenge from David Youngs and Brian Seymore; the top two vote recipients will win office.
In Holmes Beach, Mayor Bob Johnson qualified and is unchallenged, winning a second term. Long time Commissioner Judy Titsworth also qualified and is unchallenged.
Although Commissioner Marvin Grossman’s name did not appear on the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections website as having filed or qualified, Grossman told the Bradenton Herald on Friday that he filed all of the paperwork on Thursday.