County Commission candidate Smith takes fundraising lead in District 2 race while Neunder continues to outpace opponents in District 4 campaign

Smith has $83,500 through first week of August, while Neunder reports total of $126,170

At the end of the first week of August, Siesta Key architect and Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Chair-Elect Mark Smith, a Republican, moved ahead of the other four candidates — three Democrats and a second Republican — in the race for the District 2 County Commission seat, their latest campaign finance reports show.

In the District 4 race, Venice chiropractor Joseph Neunder remains well ahead of his competitors — Republican Mark Hawkins of Sarasota, who owns Hawk’s Nest Construction; and Daniel Kuether of Sarasota, a custom real estate software designer.

The campaign finance reports that the candidates filed for the period of July 30 through Aug. 5 — the latest ones available to The Sarasota News Leader for this article — show Smith had collected $83,500 and had spent $62,684.24 since he entered the District 2 race in late May.

In contrast, Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody — who had been leading the contest in terms of finances — had received total contributions of $70,714 through Aug. 5 and had spent $57,713.33. Brody filed for the race on Feb. 2.

Siesta Key contractor Mike Cosentino, who filed for the District 2 seat one day after Brody, had contributions adding up to $58,883.31 through Aug. 5. His expenditures in his latest report totaled $30,671.83.

Siesta Key resident Lourdes Ramirez, who long has been active in community organizations and who is president of the largest Republican Club in the county — the Republican Women’s Club of Sarasota — reported $26,239 in contributions through Aug. 5. Her expenditures added up to $14,580.99 through that date.

Finally, former Sarasota Mayor and City Commissioner Fredd Atkins of Newtown reported contributions of $23,885.68 through Aug. 5, with expenditures of $13,925.34.

Details of District 2 candidates’ contributions and expenses

In his latest report, Smith noted five contributions of $1,000 each — the maximum allowed by state law. Four of those came from businesses owned by Chris Brown of Osprey — Interdevco Management Services (The Hub Baja Grill), Siesta Key Summer House, The Cottage and the Beach Club. The fifth $1,000 contribution was from UPP Global, a parking management company headquartered in Portland, Maine.

Smith’s highest expense listed in the document was $14,390.01, which went to Political Ink in Washington, D.C., for the design and printing of mailers, plus postage and shipping costs.

Brody listed four more contributions in his report, with the highest — $300 — coming from Sarasota attorney Patrick Seidensticker. Another Sarasota attorney, Robert Lincoln, gave Brody $200, while Freeport business owner Michael Willis contributed $250, the report says. The Florida Division of Corporations says Willis is the manager of Nine Planets LLC, which is a designer of business websites.

Brody’s two largest expenses listed in that report are $1,167.04 paid to Robocent of Virginia Beach, Va., for text messaging; and $900 to Sprout Blue LLC of Boca Raton for consulting.

In his report for the period of July 30 through Aug. 5, Cosentino listed five new contributions ranging from $50 to $800. The latter came from retiree Gerald Lotz of Sarasota, the report says, while Sarasota entrepreneur Arthur Hall, contributed $500. Hall’s LinkedIn account says he formerly worked with Jacobs Engineering of Tampa to create and execute maintenance contracts for state roads in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Lotz’s wife, Patricia, gave Cosentino $200, the report notes.

Attorney Susan Schoettle-Gumm, who has been an advocate for controlled growth in the eastern part of the county, gave Cosentino $250, the document notes. (See the Planning Commission article in this issue.)

Cosentino’s highest expenses in that report were $4,000 paid to Sarah Parker of Sarasota for consulting work; $2,400 to Kaitlynn Danehy-Samitz of Bradenton, founder of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, for consulting; $2,200 to Political Marketing International in Marianna for “outreach/computerized marketing”; and $2,000 to Grassroots Strategies & Consulting of Bradenton.

In Atkins’ campaign finance report for July 30 through Aug. 5, he listed 29 new contributions, ranging from $5 to $1,000. He received $1,000 apiece from Judy Alexander, CEO of the nonprofit Every Child Inc., and Venice retiree Rosalie Danbury, the report notes.

Both retired Sarasota City Auditor and Clerk Billy Robinson and the Black Class of ’70 alumni association gave Atkins $200, while Sarasota retiree Nancy Oliver, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, contributed $250 to his campaign.

Atkins’ largest expense in the period was a $1,500 payment to his campaign manager, Peter Imhoff of Englewood, the document shows.

Ramirez listed seven new contributions in her report, with amounts ranging from $100 to $1,000. Maria Bankkemper, whose family owns the Best Western Plus Siesta Key Gateway hotel on South Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, gave Ramirez the highest amount. Suncoast Auto Parts of Sarasota contributed $500, and south Siesta resident Robert Sax gave Ramirez $400.

Sax is a plaintiff in one of the two lawsuits filed in November 2021 to challenge the County Commission’s approval of two high-rise hotels on Siesta Key. Ramirez filed the initial complaint, which focuses just on the hotel proposed on Calle Miramar, on the edge of Siesta Village. (See the related article in this issue.)

Additionally, attorney Lisa Chittaro of Sarasota contributed $350 to Ramirez, and attorney Susan Schoettle-Gumm added $250.

Ramirez’s biggest expense in the report — $319.34 — went to Imagine This of Massillon, Ohio, for signs.

The District 4 race

Through Aug. 5, Neunder of Venice had raised $126,170, his report said, while he had spent $75,093.43. Neunder listed only three contributions for that period, ranging from $50 to $1,000. The latter amount came from Siesta Key resident Mike Holderness through Holderness’ firm Beachside Management. The Eshenbaugh Land Co. of Tampa gave Neunder $500, while Sarasota retiree Kevin Gmerek added $50, the report says.

On its website, Eshenbaugh Land Co. says it “combines boots-on-the-ground savvy with up-to-the-minute market knowledge and insights to produce award-winning land sales,” adding that it uses “digital marketing and networking tools to internationally market properties.”

Neunder’s top expense — $6,914.71 — went to Public Concepts LLC of Jupiter for advertising.

Hawkins listed no contributions or expenses from July 30 through Aug. 5. That left him with a total of $12,570 from his fundraising, while his expenditures added up to $23,506.20, his filing notes.

Kuether listed 26 new contributions for the period, bringing his fundraising total to $17,645. His expenditures through Aug. 5 added up to $11,134.44.

The contributions ranged from $15 to $1,000, the report says. The latter amount came from the Rosemary Development Group LLC of Longboat Key, whose registered agent is Timothy Riesen of 4134 Gulf of Mexico Drive, the Florida Division of Corporations notes.

Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert gave Kuether $100, the document shows.

As for expenses: The largest total — $615.81 — went to of Irvine, Calif., for software and processing fees. Kuether also paid $250 to Magic Dedicated of Wilmington, Del., for professional services and $250 to Jayne Wallace of Sarasota for consulting work.

Aug. 23 is the date of the Primary Election. Early voting will continue through Sunday, Aug. 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the three county Supervisor of Elections Offices — at the Terrace Building in downtown Sarasota, at the R.L. Anderson Administration Center in Venice and at Biscayne Plaza in North Port — as well as at the Betty J. Johnson North Sarasota Library on Newtown Boulevard in Sarasota, the Fruitville Public Library on Apex Road in Sarasota, and at the Devyn Event Center, located at 7113 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.