Benderson Development and Pat Neal among Hanks’ supporters, while Carlos Beruf companies put money behind Cutsinger, records show
With Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines having to step down from the board in November because of term limits, two Republicans will compete in the Aug. 18 Primary to face Democrat Alice White of North Port for the District 5 seat.
Ron Cutsinger of Englewood, a former Sarasota County Planning Commission member, has raised more than twice as much as his opponent, North Port Commissioner Christopher Hanks, the latest campaign finance records show. As of July 31, Cutsinger reported a total of $68,310.60, compared to Hanks’ $31,480.40.
Additionally, while Hanks had spent $21,372.81 through July, campaign finance records show, Cutsinger recorded expenditures of $59,532.31 through the same month.
Among Cutsinger’s payments were $15,000 for “media” to McLaughlin Media of Glauvelt, N.Y., on July 1; $9.280.47 to Public Concepts of Jupiter on July 14 for direct mail services; another $4,990.55 to Public Concepts in early March; and $4,000 in late July to The Strategy Group for Media of DeLaware, Ohio, for “production.”
Hanks’ biggest expenses, The Sarasota News Leader found, have been payments to People Who Think in Mandeville, La., for “Strategic Marketing.” The highest the News Leader saw in its review of his campaign finance records was $8,055.97 on July 3. He also spent $2,000 each in early February, early March and early July with the company — plus $1,500 payments in April and May. Additionally, he has employed the Venice CPA firm of Robinson Gruters & Roberts for accounting services. For example, he made a $500 payment to the firm on July 1. Other payments to the firm were for $350, the News Leader found.
On his campaign website, Cutsinger says he and his wife, Alison, have lived in South County “for nearly five decades.” That website also reports that Cutsinger “is a steadfast supporter of President Trump and is committed to the conservative cause.” Cutsinger will fight for lower taxes and less regulation, the website continues, and he will “stand up for the rights of the unborn and defend all of our rights enshrined in the Constitution — especially those in the Second Amendment.”
On his campaign Facebook page, Cutsinger appears to use two images very similar to those that appear on the campaign Facebook page of Commissioner Michael Moran, who is seeking re-election to the District 1 seat. One of those photos, which shows an infant, accompanies a statement about Cutsinger’s pro-life stance. The second is of President Ronald Reagan; that accompanies a quote from the late president: “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.”
Other posts on that page show Cutsinger shaking hands with Michael Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory, which has been working with Sarasota County staff on the plans for a new Science Education Aquarium at Benderson Park. The commission has committed to spending $20 million in Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue on that project, though Commissioner Hines, at a recent county Tourist Development Council meeting, acknowledged that new commissioners elected this year could take a different tack on that funding.
Further, Cutsinger posted about his endorsement by the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association, noting, “They recognize me as a principled conservative that will help lead us back to a prosperous economy.”
Other posts tout endorsements from Sheriff Tom Knight and former County Commissioner Christine Robinson, who is the executive director of the Argus Foundation in Sarasota.
Yet another post, from June 22, says, “I strongly support our law enforcement officers and reject the reckless notion to ‘defund the police.’”
Cutsinger is owner and operator of Waypoint Wealth Management.
Hanks’ campaign website explains that he is a native of northwest Arkansas and a third-generation tradesman.
After stints as a general contractor and an employee of a mortgage firm, he most recently has been a partner in DHY Media Group, which specializes in social and digital marketing, the website says.
On his campaign Facebook page, Hanks points out, “I am the only South County candidate that has experience in municipal government, so no learning curve for me … I will be the voice of Englewood, South County and North Port from Day One.”
In another post, dated Aug. 6, Hanks notes that the Suncoast Professional Firefighters & Paramedics IAFF Local 2546 has endorsed him “because I care for our First Responders.”
A number of Hanks’ most recent posts point to vandalism of his campaign signs and talk about lies allegedly spread about him. On July 15, he posted, “I am your TRUE South County Candidate. I am a Republican who won’t be pushed around! Do you want the status quo, or to FINALLY have the representation YOU DESERVE. My competition has ZERO to run on, so [Cutsinger] spends Manatee Benefactor money to slander and make personal attacks with high price Mailers and Television ads. South County isn’t buying it! WE CONTROL OUR FUTURE, NOT MANATEE & NORTH COUNTY DEVELOPERS!”
Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office records show that Cutsinger filed for the District 5 seat on Dec. 6, 2019.
In January, his first full month of formal campaigning, Cutsinger reported $29,120 in contributions. However, he gave the campaign $25,000 of that total.
Most of the other contributions he reported that month were for $200, the maximum allowed by law. Two of those were from land use attorneys with the Williams Parker firm in Sarasota. They came from Dan Bailey and his son, Charles D. Bailey III. Nokomis chiropractor Joe Neunder — a former Planning Commission member — gave $200, as well.
In February, Cutsinger reported another $15,255.60 in contributions, with his total at that point reaching $46,475.60.
Frank Strelec, a member of the county’s Planning Commission, and Robert A. Morris, a past member of that board, were among those who gave him $200 in February.
Businesses and individuals associated with James B. Gabbert of Sarasota combined for $1,000 altogether, at $200 each. Gabbert is widely known for having failed in August 2017 — on a 3-2 County Commission vote — to win approval for a construction and yard waste recycling facility next to the Celery Fields.
Yet another group of contributions — 20 at $200 each — came from mostly real estate companies operating out of 1651 Whitfield Avenue in Sarasota. Among those were Parrish Realty LLC, Medallion Homes Gulf Coast and Charlie Michaels Inc. Manatee County developer Carols Beruf is listed as the treasurer for the latter company, the News Leader found, while he is the founder of Medallion Home, according to its website.
From July 11-17, Cutsinger took in another $10,450, that report shows, but he gave the campaign $10,000 of that.
In March, former state Sen. Pat Neal, who leads homebuilding company Neal Communities, and four firms at the same address — 5800 Lakewood Ranch Blvd. — gave Cutsinger $1,000 altogether. Additionally that month, County Commission Alan Maio, Maio’s wife and Maio’s son, Adam, gave Cutsinger $200 each.
Hanks filed for the District 5 seat on June 19, 2019, the Supervisor of Elections Office website notes. His biggest month for contributions was January, when he reported raising $8,235, though he put in $1,000 of that. Among other contributors that month were Benderson Development Co. ($200); that firm’s CEO, Randy Benderson ($200); a limited liability company associated with Benderson Development in Buffalo, N.Y. — 9395 CH ($200); King Plastic Corp. of North Port ($200); Farlow’s on the Water restaurant in Englewood ($200); and Euro-Wall Systems LLC of North Port ($200).
Hanks also provided $134.21 in in-kind services.
Minus his two contributions in the January report, Hanks had a total of 61 payments in checks or cash.
In February, Hanks gave his campaign another $1,000, plus $200 in in-kind services for food and beverages for an event.
He had 36 other contributions that month, ranging from $20 up to $200 for a total of $4,265.
In early July, Hanks loaned the campaign $10,000. His other nine contributions for that period added up to $1,550.