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East County Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 8 months ago

Manatee Commissioner Vanessa Baugh considers run for Florida House

Vanessa Baugh considers resigning her commission post to run for the state House of Representatives.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

In April 2018, Lakewood Ranch's Vanessa Baugh announced she would run for the District 73 seat to the Florida House of Representatives.

A few days later, though, she said family issues would stop her from that campaign and instead she would continue working as a Manatee County commissioner.

Baugh, now in her third term of county commissioner, said on Friday that she again is considering a run for the Florida House of Representatives election Nov. 8, 2022.

She hinted at a County Commission meeting Thursday of such a move. She told her fellow commissioners she has had "about all of this board I want" and noted she might resign from the commission by the end of the year.

Baugh, a Republican, said the time is right for a run for the legislature she wanted to make in 2018. The state legislature is finishing its redistricting maps, and Baugh said it is likely a new district representing the Lakewood Ranch area will be drawn. Tommy Gregory currently represents District 73, which includes much of East County, but proposed redistricting maps would cut the Lakewood Ranch area out of his district.

"I will highly consider it," she said of a run at the state House. "But it really depends on the redistricting maps."

New redistricting maps are expected to be approved late in January.

Baugh said she could seek reelection to the commission if the redistricting maps don't form a new district as expected. She plans to submit the paperwork to run for reelection to the commission.

Meanwhile, tensions remained high during Manatee County Commission meetings. During Thursday's meeting, her fellow commissioners talked about removing Baugh from her role as the commission's representative on the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization board. Commissioner Reggie Bellamy left the room, which prevented any vote being taken on a possible motion as all board members must be in attendance for such an action.

Baugh is awaiting a hearing date with the Florida Commission on Ethics to examine her role in a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic that was held last February at Gov. Ron DeSantis' request in Lakewood Ranch. Baugh had limited the clinic to residents of two East County ZIP codes and also created a list of five names, including herself, she had sent to Manatee County Public Safety Director Jacob Saur to be included in the clinic. 

In December, the Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause that Baugh might have abused her office to obtain "disproportionate" benefits.

Through it all, Baugh remained County Commission chair through the end of her term Jan. 1.

Baugh said the ethics charges have nothing to do with her telling fellow commissioners she might resign from the commission by the end of the year.

"They all are assuming it's because of the ethics charges, but it's not," she said. "I didn't go into detail, but, yes, I am considering serving my constituents on the state level."

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