As early voting in the Aug. 26 primary enters its second day this Sunday and absentee ballots continue to be filled out, we recap our recommendations in five big contests.
School board D-2: Rodney K. Jones
Two first-time candidates for public office, community activist Rodney Jones and social studies teacher Charlie Kennedy, are competing to replace Barbara Harvey, who has held the position for 16 years.
Jones, a certified grant writer with a project management background, carries a long history of volunteerism in the district -- including service on several key citizens committees.
He also sits on the school advisory committee at G.D. Rogers Elementary, and he has been a substitute teacher in the district. Plus, he has worked in or had direct oversight of contracted schools in Manatee, DeSoto and Hardee counties.
His experience at successfully managing multimillion-dollar contracts will come into play as the district continues building sound budgets after years of deficits and mismanagement.
With more than 20 years spent working with at-risk children and families in prevention, delinquency, substance abuse and mental health, Jones would bring a unique skill set and perspective to the school board.
Jones articulates many strong positions, and his broad community, district and business experience make him the best candidate in this contest.
School board D-4: Karen Carpenter
Incumbent, Karen Carpenter, finishing her first term, seeks re-election against Frank Brunner, served on the board from 1996 to 2006.
Carpenter, a retired nonprofit director and banker, oversaw dramatic change after revelations of financial mismanagement and budget deficits.
She has been a strong advocate for civility, transparency and cultural change, and a vocal critic of such past practices as nepotism and cronyism.
Carpenter helped steer the district away from past mistakes, grievous errors that didn't adhere to "the spirit or letter of the law."
Now she's intent on regaining and rebuilding community trust in the district.
Carpenter has demonstrated the drive to put the district on a sound path in education, administration and ethics. Her first term is a barometer of positive improvements is all three areas.
School board D-5: Julie Aranibar
In this field of four candidates for East Manatee's District 5 seat, incumbent and medical business administrator Julie Aranibar faces former Manatee Technical Institute director Mary Cantrell, attorney and pastor James T. Golden and community manager Carlton "Les" Nichols.
Four years ago, then-school district critic Aranibar ran on a platform that spotlighted her views of financial mismanagement and administrative secrecy. Her campaign position back then proved prophetic when the district descended into fiscal chaos.
Serving as this year's board chair, Aranibar has been one of the key voices espousing transparency and accountability. Her current focus is continuing the district's progress on the financial and educational fronts.
During her term, the board established an audit committee of citizens with financial backgrounds to ensure accountability and issue recommendations. Aranibar also has been a leading proponent of aligning the budget to education to boost student achievement.
During her first term on the board, Aranibar has proven worthy of the post and worthy of re-election.
Unless one receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will compete in the November general election -- a probable outcome.
County Commission D-2: Michael Gallen
In this Democratic primary, Michael Gallen seeks his second term against two challengers, private investigator and ex-sheriff's deputy Corie Holmes and businessman and Palmetto city commissioner Charles B. Smith. The winner will face write-in candidate Troy Thomas in the November general election.
Gallen works full time as a commissioner, responding to constituent and community needs. A lawyer and member of the Florida and Manatee County bar associations, his legal experience and knowledge allow him to compose legal analyses of community issues for the board -- skills that have time and again been valuable.
Prompted by community outrage, Gallen successfully led the legal battle to close two public nuisances in his district.
He led the debate on returning Children's Services Tax dollars to the goals that voters intended when passing the surtax -- and not to divert funds to juvenile incarceration.
A former American government instructor at Lakewood Ranch High School with experience on the Florida House of Representatives staff, the Manatee County native brings deep knowledge of governance to the commission along with his legal expertise. He merits retention.
County Commission D-4: Robin DiSabatino
This contest is the second one between businesswoman Robin DiSabatino and engineer Timothy Norwood.
As the incumbent, DiSabatino vows to keep her attention centered around her previous campaign platform -- job creation, low taxes and crime reduction, primarily fighting gangs and violence in order to create safer neighborhoods. These themes point to improvements in the district's quality of life, an essential ingredient to the overall vitality of the county.
The urban South County district is the focus of new efforts to revitalize residential neighborhoods and commercial zones through infill incentives and other programs, including a new tax-increment financing district. DiSabatino is devoting her attention to this opportune game plan.
DiSabatino has proven to be a good steward of the economy and the environment, the latter disarming past critics who assailed her 2010 campaign connections to developers.
A full-time commissioner, DiSabatino spent more than 25 years as a self-employed business woman and brings that experience to the dais -- by focusing on running government like a business that is responsive to citizens. As the region's economy continues to rebound, her business-centered positions are spot-on.
Early voting continues from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Aug. 23 at four locations: Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto; Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Lakewood Ranch; Rocky Bluff Library, 6750 U.S. Highway 301, Ellenton; and the Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Bradenton.
If you wait to vote until Aug. 26, check your voter registration card to ensure your precinct. The county supervisor of elections office closed a number of precincts, shifting some voters to new ones.
All registered voters can cast ballots in all three school board races despite district designations. Candidates, however, must reside in that district.
All voters in County Commission District 4 can cast ballots since there are no November opponents in this Republican primary contest.
The Herald's complete recommendations can be found online at bradenton.com/endorsements with candidate forums and news reports attached to each editorial. Responses to those recommendations from the other candidates are also there.