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Side of Ranch

District 72 Republican candidates launch campaigns

Lakewood Ranch Republican Club provides a forum to meet its party's candidates.

District 72 candidate Alyssa Gay tells the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club why she is a solid candidate for the Florida House.
District 72 candidate Alyssa Gay tells the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club why she is a solid candidate for the Florida House.
Photo by Jay Heater
  • East County
  • Opinion
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In many ways, political strategist Anthony Pedicini has become the Darth Vader of Manatee County politics.

He is thought of, by many, as the bad guy.

But he also is the Yankees. He wins.

I would imagine that is his No. 1 job goal.

It was interesting on May 15 when I went to the Florida House District 72 Candidate Forum, hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club, at Lakewood Ranch Country Club, to hear the anti-Pedicini sentiment.

This was somewhat of a meet-the-candidates type of event rather than a public forum to discuss issues. All four Republican candidates — Bill Conerly, Alyssa Gay, Richard Tatem, and Richard Green — were asked questions by club Vice President Bruce Stamm relating to the election, but most were relative softballs.

They are all Republicans (Lesa Miller is the lone Democrat in the race so far), so it's not surprising if they are asked about who they admire, they all might say former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis, among others. Yes, they are conservative Republicans. Yes, they believe in less government being more. Yes, they share conservative values.

The event was like a sizing opportunity for shoes. Sure, this candidate looks good, but does it feel right after walking around a bit?

So back to the Pedicini connection. Pedicini, or Darth Vader, is representing Conerly, who by association is now part of the Imperial forces.

Tatem started the proceedings by telling the crowd of approximately 100 Republicans that he already had experienced election intimidation, and that an unnamed person had called him and threatened him by saying that this particular team was going to raise a lot of money and therefore be able to find out everything negative about him.

Tatem said he was told that the unnamed team was going to "buy the seat," and that he was no match.

He talked about election intimidation.

"This is not how we want our county to be run," Tatem told the crowd.

When it was Conerly's time to speak, he noted that "Mr. Tatum is talking about me."

It wasn't that Conerly had made such a call himself, but he intimated that Tatum was saying it was a member of Conerly's team who had made the call, and that his Pedicini-led team would buy the election.

So it comes down to election-speak, where those who raise lots of money are somehow burdened by granting favors to those who make the large contributions.

It is the real world, so we know there can be some truth to that. But that being acknowledged, why wouldn't it be the case for every dollar raised, no matter the total? Would a candidate who raised $50,000 be less connected to his or her contributors than someone who raised $100,000?

Conerly stressed that no matter how much money he raises, "I make my own decisions."

That tit for tat exchange began the forum, but it soon leveled out into more of an introduction than an exploration of strengths and issues. There was quite a bit of mutual admiration among the candidates.

As far as broad observations, it was obvious that Conerly and Green are powerful public speakers who are going to demand attention whether they are speaking at a campaign event or trying to convince fellow legislators to back a bill.

Comerly appears to be a more behind-the-scenes kind of force, the engineer who served 12 years on the planning commission and who specializes in being a problem solver. His task will be to convince the voters that he has the interpersonal skills to convince fellow representatives to join his causes.

Tatem is a natural leader with his military background, but he will have to convince voters that his brief run as a member of the board of education will make him effective in Tallahassee. Green has his experience with land uses as an attorney making him a prime choice because he, indeed, knows about making law.

Gay is the wild card, telling the crowd that she will out-work anyone else to represent their values in the House.

Tatem, Green and Gay all will be challenged to get in front of the public as much as possible before the primary on Aug. 20, because they aren't likely to match Conerly's machine in terms of mailers or advertisements. But, of course, perhaps one of the three can rally contributors.

It should be noted that in 2022, both Mike Rahn and Jason Bearden won Manatee County Commission seats despite raising less money than their incumbent opponents (although that didn't include Political Action Committee money). So voters do listen.

My advice for Lakewood Ranch-area voters is to seek out and talk to all the candidates. Don't rely on something that comes in the mail to determine your vote, and a representative you will have to live with for the next two years. Richard Green's website is Gay's website is Conerly's website is Tatem's website is

Go to the websites, ask for a chance to meet. Have a conversation on how they expect to represent you.

The force be with you.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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