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Proposed Senate district lines persuade Neal not to run

MANATEE -- Based on the way Florida Senate District 21 might be redrawn, developer and former state senator Pat Neal says he won’t be a candidate to replace the term-limited Mike Bennett of Bradenton.

To date, former state representative Bill Galvano, a Republican from Bradenton, is the only declared candidate for the District 21 seat.

“It’s not my intent to run against Bill Galvano, He’s been my friend for 30 years. I don’t ever contemplate running against Bill,” Neal said Tuesday.

The redistricted map for District 21 would continue to cover a large portion of Manatee County. But parts of Sarasota, DeSoto, Charlotte and Lee counties that are currently past of the district would be exchanged for portions of eastern Hillsborough and western Polk counties.

Lakewood Ranch north of University Parkway would be included in District 21, while the southern portion of Lakewood Ranch containing the Corporate Park, Sarasota Polo Club, and thousands of proposed new homes, would be among territory shifted out of District 21.

During his time in the legislature during the 1970s and 1980s, Neal represented districts covering vast portion of the state’s interior from East Manatee, to Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee, and Glades counties.

Should a similar district materialize from redistricting, Neal said that might prompt consideration for him to make another run.

But he stopped short of saying whether he would be a candidate in the future.

“There are a lot of doors to public service,” Neal said. “I will just leave it at that.”

Although Neal has been out of elected office for several decades, he has remained involved in government through service on the state ethics commission, governor’s property tax initiative, and more. In addition, he has been active in the political arena through his support of other candidates.

Tuesday represented the final day for public comment on the redrawn Senate lines.

“Not our most tidy district,” is how John Guthrie, staff director for the Florida Senate referred to District 21 during Tuesday’s reapportionment meeting.

But it does pull together communities that are not too far apart, Guthrie said.

One of the criticisms of the existing district is that it meanders from the Bradenton area to the Fort Myers area.

The proposed, more compact, district would allow communities in the Tampa Bay area to work more closely together than in the existing district, Galvano said.

“The district is very positive for Manatee County,” Galvano said.

Galvano said he has been working hard to secure Republican endorsements in the House, Senate, and Cabinet, and has been doing the fundraising needed to fuel a campaign.

To date, Galvano has raised $305,159.38, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

“We are working at 110 percent,” Galvano said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021.