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Manatee's Sweat not running for re-election

MANATEE -- Bob Sweat, Manatee County’s supervisor of elections, announced Tuesday that he will not run for re-election in November.

This year will be Sweat’s 28th year as head of the elections office, he said.

He hopes to “spend some time with my family, and fish, play a little golf, pick up on a few hobbies I’ve let slide,” he said during an interview Tuesday.

He has three grandchildren, and a wife who wants to travel.

Still, there is a year left in his term.

“With one more year remaining in my term, I assure the voters of Manatee County that I will strive to continue to provide you with the same quality of excellence as I have for the past 27 years,” he said in a statement earlier in the day.

Sweat, a Republican, made his announcement as his office prepares for a busy election year. Coincidentally, Tuesday was the deadline to register or to change party affiliation in order to vote in the Florida Republican presidential primary on Jan. 31.

Late Tuesday, no one had filed yet to run for the elections supervisor position, and Sweat said he hadn’t heard of any candidates who might seek the office.

“I’m sure there’s some out there,” Sweat said.

One who might considering a run is Nancy Bignell, Sweat’s long-time assistant.

Asked whether Bignell might declare her candidacy, Sweat said she had “not made up her mind yet, but I’ve encouraged her to do it.”

“She’s got 20-plus years in, whether she would want to continue or not, I don’t know,” Sweat said.

“She’d make a fantastic supervisor, she would do a great job,” he said.

Sweat expressed mixed emotions about retiring.

“I figured 32 years is a long time,” he said. “This year will be 28 here (as elections supervisor), and I did four as a city councilman,” he said.

Sweat was proudest of system changes that have made voting in Manatee “very, very accessible, very easy to use,” he said.

“My feedback has been just excellent,” he said.

Asked about the contested 2000 election, Sweat said, “If you look at the 2000 election, we probably had the best one in the state -- we didn’t have the auditors down here on us, didn’t do recounts, and a bunch of lawyers. You have to look at the big picture.”

“Compared with other offices of the state of Florida, we had a very successful election,” he said.

Richard O’Brien, the chairman of Manatee’s Democratic Party, said his party leadership will discuss possible candidates.

“We’re having a tough time fielding candidates,” he said. “It’s got to be the right fit, the person has to want it, we’ll just keep casting our net out there, and see who we can find,” O’Brien said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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