Former Sarasota Mayor Atkins files as fourth Democratic candidate for seat held by Republican Ziegler
Editor’s note: This article was updated in the late morning of March 25 to correct information about contributor William McComb.
Of the three Democrats who initially filed for the District 2 Sarasota County Commission race, Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody is well in the lead on finances, the first reports show.
In the meantime, The Sarasota News Leader learned that a fourth candidate — former Sarasota Mayor and City Commissioner Fredd Atkins of Newtown — announced during a March 19 event held by the nonprofit Control Growth Now that he plans to seek that seat, as well. Atkins filed his campaign paperwork with the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office just before 10 a.m. on March 24, that office’s records note.
In November 2019, Atkins’ plans for a County Commission campaign were thwarted when the commissioners voted 3-2 to revise their district boundaries to move most of Newtown from District 1 into District 2. Opponents of that action contended that it was designed to clear the path to re-election for Commissioner Michael Moran, the Republican who won the District 1 seat in 2016. Members of the public pointed out that the majority of Newtown citizens have a long history of supporting Democratic candidates.
Further, as of late morning on March 24, Commissioner Christian Ziegler, who won the District 2 seat in the November 2018 General Election, had yet to file for re-election, according to the Supervisor of Elections Office website.
Community activists have noted that District 2 has a majority of voters who are registered as Democrats. Ziegler is vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida.
Moreover, during the March 8 Special Election, the majority of citizens who voted in District 2 precincts supported keeping the Single-Member Districts voting system part of the Sarasota County Charter. Ziegler had joined his fellow Republicans on the county board in arguing that Single-Member Districts is “bad governance.”
All the commissioners had urged voters to repeal the Charter amendment that won approval in the November 2018 General Election. It allows only citizens who live in the same district as candidates to vote for those candidates. Previously — except for a two-year window in the early 1990s — commissioners were elected countywide.
Along with Democrat Brody in the District 2 race, Democrat Mike Cosentino of Siesta Key also has filed his first campaign finance report, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office shows.
The third candidate seeking the seat, Andrew Bevan, who formerly lived in Port Charlotte in Charlotte County, has yet to raise any money. (See the related article in this issue.)
For the month of February, Cosentino reported that he had contributed $1,428.81 to his campaign. No other donations were listed; nor did the form show any expenditures.
In contrast, Brody reported in his first campaign finance filing that he had raised $25,388 in monetary contributions and that he had spent $791.54.
Brody loaned his campaign $300 on Feb. 2. Then, he wrote three checks to the campaign totaling $36, the document shows.
Mark Vengroff, managing partner of One Stop Housing, gave Brody a total of $7,000 through multiple entities involved with affordable housing initiatives in Sarasota, including Oakridge Apts LLC, Lucky Houses SRQ LLC, and One Stop Housing.
Ian Black of Sarasota, who heads up his eponymous commercial real estate firm in Sarasota, is among individuals who have given Brody $1,000, the records note.
Others are Dr. Karen Chapman of Sarasota, plus her husband, Paul, an accountant; Sharon Carole, owner of Sage restaurant, who purchased the landmark downtown restaurant Bijou Café in May 2021; Neil McCurry Jr., president and CEO of Sabal Palm Bank in Sarasota, and his wife, Katie, who also contributed $1,000; Dan Clermont, who ran unsuccessfully for the District 3 City Commission seat in November 2020, and his wife, Yvette, who also contributed $1,000; attorney Patrick S. McArdle, who has offices in Bradenton and Sarasota; Realtor Martin Rauch of Sarasota; entrepreneur Jordan Letschert of Sarasota, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in the 2018 election for the County Commission District 4 seat that was won again by Commissioner Alan Maio; and William McComb, the former CEO of the international cosmetics company Liz Claiborne.
Among other, smaller contributions, professional real estate agent Steve Wexler with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Sarasota gave Brody $100, while attorney John Torraco wrote Brody a $500 check and attorney David Goldman gave Brody $250. (Brody himself is an attorney.) Both Kay Mathers of Sarasota, a past chair of the nonprofit Girls Inc. of Sarasota County, who was district aide to former state Rep. Margaret Good of Sarasota; and Rita Ferrandino, founding partner of Arc Capital Development and a past chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party, both gave Brody $250.
As for Brody’s expenses: All but one payment went to Stripe for processing fees for contributions Brody had received, the campaign finance form indicates. The other expenditure, $33.14, was used for checks.