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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 8, 2012
  • Longboat Key
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If you haven’t already made your election selections or turned in your absentee or early-voting ballot for Tuesday’s primary election, herewith we present a few thoughts that might help you decide which bubble to color on your ballot.

As always, here is our warning: About 98% of the time, if not more often, our recommendations favor the candidates who ascribe to the Founding Fathers’ principles of more freedom for the individual and strict limits on government intervention. In that vein:

Republican Party
U.S. Senate — It’s remarkable how many times Florida’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, has been able to avoid running against a powerhouse Republican candidate.

In Nelson’s last race in 2006, he whipped, unfortunately, Katherine Harris, winning 60% of the vote. And that for a candidate whom Florida Trend magazine aptly dubbed “the empty suit” when Nelson ran for governor many moons ago.

So here the Republicans are again, this time with Connie Mack IV, son of one of Florida’s all-time great conservatives, his father, Sen. Connie Mack III.

Mack IV isn’t his father to be sure. Nonetheless, the apple pretty much fell underneath the father’s philosophical tree. We especially like his proposal to reduce the national debt. And for his eight years in Congress, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste in Washington, D.C., have given Mack a Lifetime Rating of “Hero” for fiscal conservatism.

If Republicans hope to have any chance at defeating Nelson, Mack IV should be the Republicans’ contender. Recommendation: Connie Mack IV

12th Circuit State Attorney — When you talk to judges, public defenders, law-enforcement officers and former prosecutors in the 12th Judicial Circuit, they especially want what we all want: an ethical, fair and tough state attorney, in that order.

To that end, based on our discussions with those closely involved in the judicial system, candidate Ed Brodsky, currently chief assistant state attorney and a state prosecutor for 20 years, is the best candidate to replace retiring State Attorney Earl Moreland.

While neither Brodsky nor his Republican opponent Peter Lombardo distinguished himself in a Tiger Bay debate in Sarasota last month, the event was enough to expose key characteristics of the candidates. There’s a reason Brodsky has the support of those in law enforcement and courts, and we saw it. Recommendation: Ed Brodsky

Sheriff — This race doesn’t need discussion. While incumbent Brad Steube isn’t perfect (who is?), his job performance is such that Manatee County residents have a lot of confidence that he is still the right heir to former Sheriff Charlie Wells and has earned another term. Recommendation: W. Brad Steube

Supervisor of Elections — There really isn’t anything to debate in this race, either.

We know there is a lot of sentimental support in Manatee for retired Marine Ed Bailey, a really good guy. Likewise, former Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann has her fan club.

But c’mon. When compared to Florida Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett, their breadth of experiences, leadership and knowledge — in business, politics and government — cannot measure up.

Our brethren in the daily press like to beat up on Sen. Bennett to make him look like a real-estate scofflaw and beholden to special interests. But what they fail to point out is throughout his two terms in the Florida Senate, few senators stood up for the little guy, for veterans and for reducing senseless, job-killing state regulations as did Sen. Bennett. And let’s not forget, before public service, Sen. Bennett was a successful businessman, operating one of the largest electrical contracting firms in the region. He knows what it takes to meet a payroll, run a business and be a leader. Recommendation: Mike Bennett

County Commission, District 7, at large — This race is an easy one when measured on the scale of who stands for freedom and free enterprise and who stands for government intervention and control.
Betsy Benac stands for the former, incumbent Joe McClash the latter.

Don’t listen to the anti-growth screeching that Benac is a tool developers by virtue of her being employed at Benderson Development. Ask former Manatee Commissioner Pat Glass about Benac. She’ll tell you that in Benac’s 12 years in the county’s planning department, Benac was smart, rational, meticulous and competent. It’s time for Joe to go. Recommendation: Betsy Benac

School Board, District 2 — Robert Moates, a Manatee native, raised and schooled here, is the front-runner and favorite. A history and economics teacher at Lakewood Ranch High School, he has governmental and political experience as a former congressional aide to popular retired Congressman Dan Miller.

Moates would make a good school board member, replacing retiring longtime board member Harry Kinnan.
But here’s a curveball: The Manatee County School District needs a few more board members like Julie Aranibar to overhaul what’s there. In that vein, no one is more intimate with the inner workings of the school district than long-time school board watchdog, Dave “Watchdog” Miner.

Miner tries every election to be given the opportunity to make a difference. If Manatee parents are exasperated with the direction of Manatee’s schools, here’s their chance. Recommendation: Dave “Watchdog” Miner

School Board District 4 — Everything said above applies to this race, too. Challenger Linda Schaich is a relative newcomer to Manatee politics and the workings of the school district. But as a former IRS employee, she has many of the same characteristics of Miner when it comes to seeking accountability for taxpayers.
While incumbent Bob Gause is a safe bet, he seemed to have missed the opportunity in his first term to perform radical surgery on a patient that needs it badly. Recommendation: Linda Schaich

Democratic Party
U.S. Senate — For Democrats, this isn’t a race. Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson is their guy. We’ve never been a fan of his spend, spend, spend voting. But his opponent doesn’t stand a chance.

Republican Party
Supervisor of Elections — All was well until outgoing Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton learned from a state Supreme Court ruling that he had reached his term limits and could not run for re-election. And then he tipped the cart. He decided to challenge 12-year incumbent Kathy Dent.

Sure, 12 years is a long time to hold the same elective office. But the supervisor’s job isn’t quite like being in a political position, as has Thaxton, who also has held the same elected job for 12 years. Dent’s job is administration, management and process; Thaxton’s is policy making.

Two markedly different skill sets.

Most Sarasotans like Thaxton; he has done an admirable, commendable job as a county commissioner; overall a good leader for Sarasota County.

Dent, likewise, has performed competently; to be sure, she has accumulated her share of “dents” over the years — many not of her own making.

When you look at the election landscape, though, the choice appears as so: Stick with the long-time incumbent who has become well-versed in the increasingly technical and complicated supervisor’s job, whatever minor shortcomings there may be. Or bet on the long-time politician who hasn’t managed the day-to-day activities of a $4 million operation with 28 employees and hundreds of volunteers.

As is custom in elections, you are voting on the incumbent’s performance. In this instance, in spite of all of Thaxton’s attributes, Dent has not voted herself out of a job. Thaxton has another, better calling, and he will find it. Recommendation: Dent.

County Commissioner/District 5 — This is to fill the seat Jon Thaxton is vacating — in a district that is primarily the southwest quadrant of the county, south of Blackburn Point Road. It’s a countywide vote.

The Republican establishment is backing Charles Hines, a business lawyer with the respected Venice law firm of Kanetsky Moore & DeBoer. He is solid, and based on his experience and involvement in the community, would and should be an effective county commissioner.

His opponent, Randy McClendon, a Realtor, on the other hand, speaks our language. He’s a tea party advocate. “I also want to see individual liberty and free-market capitalism celebrated. I want both the citizens and the governmental employees of those citizens to have a greater understanding and appreciation for the appropriate role of government,” McClendon says.

If you like sure and safe, Hines is your man. But if you want someone to challenge the status quo from a Founding Fathers’ perspective, McClendon is your man. Recommendation: McClendon, but Hines would be fine.

Charter Review Board — The key for this office is to have people without political agendas who want to try to set public policy via charter changes. In that vein, the following five candidates appear to be most fit for these unpaid positions. Recommendations: District 1 — Anthony “Tony” Sawyer; District 2 — Donna Barcomb; District 3 — Fred Tower III; District 4 — Mark Hawkins; District 5 — John J. Fellin

Hospital Board/At Large 2 — One of the candidates dropped out of the race. Recommendation: incumbent Richard Donegan.


Republican Party
U.S. Senate — Connie Mack
State Attorney — Ed Brodsky
SherifF — W. Brad Steube
Supervisor of Elections — Mike Bennett
County Commission/District 7, At large — Betsy Benac
School Board/District 2 — Dave “Watchdog” Miner
School Board/District 4 — Linda Schaich
Democratic Party
U.S. Senate — Glenn A. Burkett

Republican Party
U.S. Senate — Connie Mack


— Kathy Dent

— Randy McLendon


District 1 — Anthony “Tony” Sawyer;
District 2 — Donna Barcomb
District 3 — Fred Tower
District 4 — Mark Hawkins
District 5 — John J. Fellin

— Richard Donegan


MANATEE — David Agee, Peggy Simone, Rex Agler, Leonard A. Trudell, James Whitman
SARASOTA — Bob Waechter, Casey Pilon, Jack Black, John Brill, Burton Rosenfield, Richard Stusek, Christian Ziegler


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