Politics & Government

Two incumbents, one newcomer file for 2016 elections in Manatee

MANATEE -- Two incumbents and one newcomer have already filed to run for Manatee County seats in the 2016 elections.

Ed Viltz has filed to run for the Manatee County School District 1 seat held by Bob Gause, which covers northeast Manatee, including Parrish, Palmetto and East Manatee. Viltz's address on file is on State Route 64 East.

Viltz, who signed the paperwork for the 2016 election in late February, did not immediately return a request for comment Monday. Viltz is a teacher at Team Success, the only Title 1 charter school in Manatee County.

In other Manatee County elections, John Chappie, Manatee County commissioner representing District 3, is seeking a third term, and Mike Bennett, supervisor of elections, is seeking a second term.

Chappie, a Republican, said constituents have been asking whether he would run for a third term so he decided to file. In 2012, Chappie ran unopposed.

"I didn't want to keep put

ting off people," Chappie said. "I decided to file that and be done with that part of it."

When asked why he wanted to run again, Chappie said there is still a lot to do.

"It is about the residents in District 3," he said. "It's the neighborhoods, HOAs and cities in District 3."

As a district commissioner, Chappie said it is also about the smaller issues such as the "potholes, noise complaints and code enforcement issues."

Chappie said the key is listening.

"It is important to be that commissioner people can call and get a response from," he said. "I've been that commissioner and will continue to be that commissioner. It is a real honor and privilege to serve the residents in District 3."

Bennett, a Republican elected in 2012, is seeking his second term. His early filing is meant to end rumors he is running for the Florida Senate, he said.

"No point in letting rumors stay out there," he said. "This is the job I'm running for. This is the job I'm enjoying. By filing now, it would just kill all the rumors."

Bennett said he thinks he's done a great job and the county had a "wonderful gubernatorial election."

During his first term, Bennett said he was able to add a fifth early voting site in western Manatee County to increase voter turnout.

Last February, Bennett was criticized for cutting the number of polling locations in the county, which some said would reduce voter access to the polls.

"We are on a mission to increase voter turnout in Manatee County and make it easier for people to vote," he said. "We've done that so far. The results of that were proven on the last election and we hope to continue on that path."

When reached Monday, Gause said he hadn't even started to think about the 2016 election.

"I've got to focus on the job at hand," he said.

Gause was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2012 after beating Linda Schaich.

Chappie, Viltz and Bennett are the only three Manatee County candidates who have filed so far.

One other school board seat is up for re-election in 2016. The District 3 seat, which covers West Manatee, is held by Dave Miner.

Three other Manatee County Commission seats are up for re-election in 2016:

The District 1 seat, which includes Parrish and north county, is held by Larry Bustle.

The District 5 seat, which covers Lakewood Ranch, is held by Vanessa Baugh.

The District 7 at-large seat is held by Betsy Benac, board chairwoman.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at caronson@bradenton.com. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.