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East County Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022 6 months ago

Rep. Tommy Gregory moving to Lakewood Ranch to run for new state House seat

The Florida representative avoids District 74 showdown with James Buchanan by announcing he will move to the Lakewood Ranch area.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

After knocking on 15,000 doors in Lakewood Ranch during his first election campaign in 2018, District 73 Rep. Tommy Gregory said he became very familiar with the area.

Although he lived in eastern Sarasota County, just off Fruitville Road, his district was made up mostly of Manatee County residents.

"Almost 200,000 of my constituents were Manatee County residents," Gregory said. "That's 85% of my district. The other 15% were Sarasota County residents."

With the district redistricting map approved by the Florida House of Representatives and now headed to the state Supreme Court for approval, Gregory's district is scheduled to be changed dramatically. His current home address would put him in the redrawn District 74, where James Buchanan is representative. A new District 72 has been formed to represent eastern Manatee County, including the Lakewood Ranch area, with its southern border ending at University Parkway and the Manatee-Sarasota counties border.

Gregory, a Republican, announced Tuesday he will buy a home in the Lakewood Ranch area to qualify him to run for the new District 72 representative seat.

If he had stayed at his current residence, he would have run against District 74 incumbent James Buchanan, who, like Gregory, is a Republican who won his seat in 2018 and was reelected in 2020.

"One of us had to make a sacrifice," Gregory said. "I thought it should be me. We knew our area will benefit if James Buchanan and I both come back with four years of experience under our belts. You are much more efficient in your fifth year than your first. It takes time to see how it all works. There is a lot to learn about getting a good bill through the legislature. It's more complex than you think."

In January, Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who lives in Lakewood Ranch, announced she would run for the new District 72 seat to the state House. Baugh, who was in a commission meeting Tuesday, said she would not run for the seat to support her party and Gregory.

"Like I've always said, I've been focused on serving my constituents, and now that Rep. Gregory has decided he wants to continue to represent Lakewood Ranch, I look forward to continuing to work with him," she said.

The primary will be held Aug. 23, and the general election is Nov. 8.

Gregory said he had mixed feelings about moving so he could run in District 72.

"My initial thought always has been to run for the district in which you live," he said. "But they formed the new District 72, and that includes almost 100% of the people I have been representing in Manatee County."

Gregory said he considers those residents his constituents and added that he learned a lot about them in the past four years.

"What I learned about people in east Manatee is that they have strong, conservative values, … strong family values. … They want you to take care of first responders, take care of law enforcement, take care of veterans."

Gregory said he ran in 2018 with transportation and infrastructure as the main concerns. He said he wasn't an expert on those issues in 2018, but he has learned a lot in his first two terms.

He said he still considers that issues as main concerns of those who live in eastern Manatee County.

"I want to build roads, I want to build roads, I want to build roads," he said with repetition. "Roads affect our quality of life. Congestion has a negative impact. And you have those tragic accidents."

He said Lakewood Ranch area residents want good government but not big government.

"If James (Buchanan) and I had run against each other, it would have been a loss for Manatee County," he said. "With those positions come influence."

Gregory, who retired after a 20-year U.S. Air Force career, serves as the judicial whip in the state House.

He said it is unlikely he would run for another political office if he can serve his term limit of eight years in the state House.

"I am very happy in this job," he said. "It is an honor to serve in the House. I am looking forward to the next four years. I want to put my four years of relationships and experience to work."

Gregory said he has until November to buy a home in the new district to be eligible to run.

One of his concerns about moving was his three children. He said his kids went to nine schools during his military life, and he and his wife of 26 years, Erica, wanted to give them stability when they moved to their current home. However, Grant, 20, and Eric, 19, both are students at Florida State University. Noah, 15, attends Cardinal Mooney High School and drives himself to school, so the short move to the Lakewood Ranch area won't affect his school life.

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