EAST COUNTY — Vanessa Baugh said people called her crazy when she began her campaign for public office, so she didn’t take her victory for granted Tuesday night after a struggle to get there.
Wiping tears from her eyes at a victory rally in Lakewood Ranch, Baugh struggled to describe her emotions as she spoke after beating Democrat James T. Golden for the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners District 5 seat.
Baugh earned 65.04% of the vote in Tuesday’s election to take the seat of incumbent Donna Hayes, who is retiring.
“I might really cry,” Baugh said. “It’s really hard to describe how I feel right now. I’m overwhelmed and honored. It’s the best feeling in the world to know the people of Manatee County want me to represent them. This is a win for the community.”
Facing impending budget cuts, Baugh vowed to make tough decisions and repeatedly referenced her excitement in representing the Manatee County business community.
“We have big challenges ahead countywide,” Baugh said. “I start Nov. 20, and I plan to get it done right away.”
At the same rally, Republican Betsy Benac, former Manatee County planner and newcomer to politics, pumped her fist and shouted, “Woo-hoo!” as she grabbed the microphone after winning the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners District 7 at-large seat. Benac won by a landslide, earning 94.9% of the vote over write-in candidate Thomas Dell. She replaces longtime Commissioner Joe McClash, whom she beat in the primary.
“It was difficult to get here, and it was especially hard being new,” Benac said. “But, with my experience in business, I think people really embraced my message of economic development.” Proud to live in District 5, Benac promised to fight for the Manatee County business community, which she said is underrepresented.
“I’ve worked in this system a long time, and I’m thrilled to earn a leadership position in it,” Benac said. “It’s time to move forward and make decisions because we have the momentum right now.”
In another local race, longtime campaigner Dave “Watchdog” Miner won the District 2 seat on the Manatee County School Board, garnering 63.5% of the vote. Miner beat Robert Moates, a teacher at Lakewood Ranch High School.
Republican Mike Bennett became the new Supervisor of Elections when he beat Charles N. Williams with 57.1% of the vote.
Bennett has served as senator for Florida’s District 21 seat since 2002.
In the federal U.S. House race, Vern Buchanan won his fourth term as representative in District 16, after beating Keith Fitzgerald 53.6% to 46.4% in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Ed Brodsky became the new state attorney, earning 54.9% of the vote in both counties over John Torraco.
Incumbent Greg Steube recorded an easy win in the state representative District 73 race. Steube received 73.75% of the vote to beat Bob McCann.
Continuing to represent the county he has served in since 1977, R.B. “Chips” Shore retained his spot as Manatee Clerk of Circuit Court, earning 97.2% of the vote.
“Give yourself a hand,” Baugh said to the audience at the end of the rally. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming out.”
Click here for a graphic on how Manatee voted.