Manatee County Commission elections set as qualifying ends

Manatee County Commission
Manatee County Commission File photo

There will be at least two new faces on the Manatee County Commission in November.

Commission candidates qualified for the four commission seats up for bid this year as the qualifying period ended at noon Friday.

In the District 7 at-large race, Manatee Commissioner Betsy Benac on Friday drew a last-minute challenger.

Benac had drawn one challenger for the Aug. 30 Republican primary, Candy Luther. But on Friday, Luther withdrew from the race, and community activist Jack Richardson, with no party affiliation, filed.

Benac and Richardson will face off in the Nov. 8 general election. Richardson, who is a registered Republican, said he decided to run for the seat with no party affiliation to allow more time to “explain to the voters the issues on the table.”

“I’m deeply concerned about many aspects of our county, particularly the financial issue,” Richardson said at the Supervisor of Elections Office on Friday after paying to qualify for the race. “These are all common sense issues that I can add to the county, and I’m not part of the system.”

Benac said she welcomes a contested race.

“I feel like I’ve done a good job for the last four years and hopefully the citizens of Manatee County will see it that way,” Benac said. “I look forward to continuing to work as a Manatee County commissioner.”

In the District 1 race, there are three candidates who qualified, including Republicans Corie Holmes, former state Rep. Ron Reagan and Priscilla Whisenant Trace. The winner of the Aug. 30 primary will replace Commissioner Larry Bustle, who earlier withdrew from the race. Michael E. Hillshiem, who had earlier filed as a write-in candidate, withdrew on Friday.

The District 1 commissioner represents Palmetto, Parrish, Duette, Terra Ceia, Rubonia, Palm View, Gillette and parts of Myakka City.

In the District 3 race, which represents West Bradenton and Anna Maria Island, there are three candidates who qualified to replace Commissioner John Chappie, who earlier withdrew from the race. The race between Republican Steve Jonsson and unaffiliated candidates Matt Bower and David Zaccagnino won’t be decided until November.

In the District 5 race, which covers Lakewood Ranch and Myakka City, two candidates qualified: Republican incumbent Vanessa Baugh and GOP challenger Kathleen Grant. The race will be decided Aug. 30.

Because there are only Republican candidates in the District 1 and District 5 races, all voters in the particular district, including Democrats and unaffiliated voters, will be able to cast ballots.

Three constitutional offices were decided Friday as Angel Colonneso, clerk of the circuit court and comptroller; Mike Bennett, supervisor of elections; and Ken Burton Jr., tax collector, were all unopposed for re-election. Also elected after drawing no opposition. was Sheriff-elect Rick Wells.

Three candidates vying to be the property appraiser have qualified: Republican incumbent Charles Hackney, Republican Chester Bullock and Lauren Ramirez, a write-in candidate.

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson