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MANATEE COUNTY — Following a highly contentious race for the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners District 5 seat, Republican Vanessa Baugh has emerged as the top candidate for the party, beating out John Colon by 997 votes during Tuesday’s primary election.
Baugh, who garnered 57.86% of the vote between Republican candidates, now will face Democrat James T. Golden, who beat out fellow Democrat Frank Archino, in November’s General Election.
“I can’t do anything but smile,” said Baugh, as she visited with friends and supporters at The Ranch Grill on election night. “I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I dreamt of this night so many times. I’m overwhelmed and I’m honored.”
Baugh thanked her friends, supporters and family for their help with her campaign, and said it was time to prepare for the months ahead.
“We need to start looking forward to November and start working for the people of Manatee County,” Baugh said. “We’re only halfway.”
Colon, who had been heavily endorsed by outgoing Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes, said despite his loss, he will continue being active in the local and national Republican Party.
“I go back to work,” he said. “I (wasn’t) running for this to have a job; I was running for this to help the county.”
In another hotly contested race, that of Supervisor of Elections, Republican Sen. Mike Bennett secured 36.75% of the vote, beating out fellow Republican hopefuls Ed Bailey (29.07%), Jane Von Hahmann (26.77%) and Richard Bedford (7.39%). Bennett, who has served as senator for Florida’s District 21 since 2002, now will face Democratic contender Charles Williams Jr. and write-in candidate Rodney Smithley, in November.
In the race for Manatee County Sheriff, incumbent Brad Steube retained his post, garnering 78.33% of the vote compared with the 21.66% earned by his challenger, Republican Bill Waldron.
“I believe (this win) shows (the public) has confidence in what we’re doing at the sheriff’s office,” Steube said, adding crime is down 30% since he became sheriff. “I have less money. I have less people. And yet, we’ve been able to keep crime down.”
For the Manatee County District 7 At-Large seat, former Manatee County planner Betsy Benac ousted longtime County Commissioner Joe McClash for the Republican ticket, winning the primary by just 494 votes, or 50.97% compared with 49.02%. Benac now will face write-in candidate Thomas Dell in November.
Two Manatee County School Board seats were also up for grabs. In District 4, incumbent Bob Gause retained his seat, with 22,325 votes or 56.30% of the vote. His challenger, Linda Schaich, garnered 17,322 votes, or 43.69%.
The fight for the District 2 seat will continue, for no candidate earned more than 50% of the vote. The top two contenders — Dave Miner and Robert Moates — will advance to the General Election. In Tuesday’s contest, Miner solicited 48.53% and Moates solicited 30.91% of the vote, compared to their fellow candidates, William Chaltis (9.44%) and Paul Sharff (11.1%).
Additionally, although Ed Brodsky beat Peter Lombardo in Manatee and Sarasota counties in the State Attorney 12th Judicial Circuit race, results for Desoto County were not finalized as of press time. The winner in the primary will face Democrat John Torraco in November.
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