MANATEE -- County Commissioner Donna Hayes has dropped her bid for re-election.
Hayes, 69, has served two terms as a commissioner and filed for re-election in February. She faced opposition from Manatee County businesswoman Vanessa Baugh for the Republican nomination.
In an e-mail Monday, Hayes announced that she is pulling out of the race to spend more time with her family, travel and golf.
“My original commitment to supporters was to serve a minimum of eight years and, with God’s blessing, I will complete my eighth year as commissioner,” she said in her email. “I will not be a candidate in 2012.
“Many folks leave public office to pursue a business opportunity but I have already had a business,” she continued. “My intent is to spend more time with my family, travel, golf, enjoy my social life and other personal endeavors. Special thanks is extended to all of my family, friends and supporters who have encouraged me to serve another 4 years, but I must confess that my personal commitments have prevailed.”
In explaining her decision to leave now, Hayes described herself as a senior citizen with four grandchildren and “a widow with a social life.”
She said she has had to pass up two vacation trips in the past year, including a trip to Spain and a European cruise, because of pressing commission duties, but no more.
“Being a commissioner has been very rewarding, but also very demanding,” Hayes said. “It is difficult to plan a birthday party, not to mention a vacation. I am in a different frame of mind now. It’s the first time I wanted to step away from total community involvement.”
Hayes said she has known for the past six months that she was not going to run for re-election. She delayed announcing while she worked with three different potential candidates to take her spot.
So far, Baugh, 57, is the only other candidate to have filed paperwork to run in District 5, which is comprised of East Manatee south of the Manatee River, including Lakewood Ranch.
Baugh said she was not surprised to learn that Hayes had dropped out of the campaign.
“I just felt that her heart wasn’t in it this time,” Baugh said. “I truly commend her for stepping forward to serve Manatee County as she has, and I wish her good fortune in her future endeavors.”
Baugh owns Vanessa Fine Jewelry on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch. She started her business in Sarasota in 1999 and moved it to Lakewood Ranch in 2005. Last year she moved her home from Sarasota to Edgewater in Lakewood Ranch.
“We were here in Manatee County every day, seven days a week,” she said. “I have lived and breathed Manatee County since I moved my business here.”
Her campaign is focused largely on the economy, from jobs, to housing and foreclosures.
“I am a business owner and I have seen first hand what this county is going through,” Baugh said. ”We have to start rocking and rolling to move this county forward. If we all work together, the citizens, commissioners and the business communities we can get this moving forward.”
Practically as soon as Hayes announced she is withdrawing from the race, another potential candidate -- JoAnne Klement -- announced that she is considering a run for the District 5 seat.
“I am still getting my ducks in a row before I take the plunge,” Klement said. “But because Donna announced, I wanted to get my name out there.”
Klement, 64, said Hayes has been helpful and encouraging about her possible run.
“I have politics in my blood,” she said. “My father was a political science professor and was the mayor of the town we lived in West Virginia. I am the granddaughter of a coal miner and my other grandfather was the president of Honduras.
“I like to tell people, I’m a little bit country, I’m a little bit cha cha cha.”
Klement, a Republican, said this is the first time she has been able to run for political office because for most of her life either she or her husband -- former Bradenton Herald editorial page editor David Klement -- have been working in journalism.
Klement said the time now is right and so are the issues.
“Manatee County’s unemployment rate persistently sticks at a stubborn 10.2 percent, among the highest in the state,” she wrote in a press release. “Small business owners struggle to stay afloat. Homeowners face the threat of foreclosure or, worse, homelessness. Our young people are forced to leave home to distant cities to find jobs. Local government cuts vital services to avoid running up massive deficits.”
It is for these, reasons, she continued, she is considering a run for office.
“When I moved to Manatee County in 1973, this was the land of opportunity,” she said Monday. “Everyone could find a job. That has changed. I am a creative and idea person. I am going to put that creativity and those ideas to work for my community.”
Toni Whitt, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-7041.