MANATEE -- Both Manatee County commissioners elected Tuesday are political veterans who have earned their stripes over many years of serving in elected office.
Incumbent Republican Carol Whitmore was re-elected in a decisive victory over Democrat Terri Wonder, while Palmetto City Commissioner Charles B. Smith, a Democrat, won his county commission seat by a wide margin over write-in candidate Troy Thomas.
The two commissioners will be joined in a Nov. 18 swearing-in ceremony by incumbent Republican Robin DiSabatino, who won re-election when she defeated GOP challenger Tim Norwood in the August primary.
The winners cite ambitious plans for the next commission term, everything from Whitmore's hope for new
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docks at Port Manatee to Smith's plans for economic development and jobs, and DiSabatino's goal of helping to right the county's much-maligned Animal Services Division.
A look at the Whitmore-Wonder race, which was decided by voters countywide, showed typical party voting patterns in the precincts: Whitmore won big in the suburbs, at the beaches, and in Lakewood Ranch, while Wonder scored heavily in traditional Democratic strongholds like Palmetto and Samoset.
Still-unofficial results of Tuesday's general election showed Whitmore beat Wonder by a margin of 68,063 to 46,276, according to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections' website.
Smith garnered 9,884 votes, while Thomas received 623.
Altogether, 121,032 ballots were cast, for a voter turnout of 56.93 percent. Manatee County has 212,609 registered voters.
Whitmore, 59, of Holmes Beach, said her top priorities include new docks for Port Manatee.
"Tomorrow on our agenda, we'll go over our legislative priorities, and No. 1 is Port Manatee," Whitmore said Wednesday. "Port Manatee's docks are 50 years old, the infrastructure needs improvement."
Whitmore also hopes to work with Smith on redevelopment or an overlay in the north county area called Memphis.
Smith, 51, of Palmetto, wants to push for economic development in District 2, which includes parts of the city of Palmetto and north county areas.
"These things are very drastically needed, and decent housing," he said. Smith emphasized that it's important to entice developers to invest in his district, adding, "I've already met with people, developers. That's what we need to move forward and remove slums and blight."
A new hotel will eventually be built near the Bradenton Area Convention Center, which is actually located in the city Palmetto, Smith said.
"Those things will move forward," Smith said Wednesday. "I totally believe the hotel will be built."
Smith's write-in opponent Troy Thomas thanked developers and business owners "who reached out to my campaign."
"I believe the future looks bright for our county and I'm looking forward to opportunities to work with commissioner-elect Smith," Thomas said Wednesday.
DiSabatino, 61, who lives in south county, had a similar message: Focusing on jobs and redevelopment in her district.
"That's very important," she said.
"How the new TIF (redevelopment district) ... will play out, it's to benefit a larger geographical area to help promote growth and economic activity and incentives."
Also a priority are deficiencies in the county Animal Services Division, which is the subject of a formal operational audit slated to conclude sometime this week or next, she said.
"That's a high priority for me, making sure we're moving forward in the right direction on that," she said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.