Knight, Rainford both qualify for County Commission District 3 race by submitting voter-signed petitions

Supervisor of Elections Turner formally notifies them they will not have to pay filing fee

Tom Knight. Image courtesy of his County Commission campaign

Both Republican candidates in the race for the District 3 Sarasota County Commission seat have submitted enough voter-signed petitions to the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office to forgo paying the $5,970.48 filing fee, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

Former Sheriff Tom Knight and Commissioner Neil Rainford — whom Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed to the District 3 seat after the April 2023 death of Commissioner Nancy Detert — had to obtain a minimum of 744 valid signatures of District 3 voters, a Supervisor of Elections Office fact sheet says. That figure represents 1% of the total number of registered voters of that district, the fact sheet explains.

On March 26, Knight’s campaign team distributed a press release, reporting that he was able to qualify for the race with 810 certified petitions, but that his team had collected “well over 1,000.”

A March 25 letter from Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner to Rainford — provided on the elections office website — said that Rainford had collected 839 certified petitions.

“This was a strong grassroots effort that was accomplished through the hard work of our many volunteers, known as the Knight Fighters,” said Knight in the press release. “We had the ability to pay a fee for qualification, but we chose to show voters that my campaign has boots on the ground and the support of our community, which is my home of 50 years. We also felt a responsibility to those who have donated to my campaign to use every dollar in a fiscally conservative way,” Knight added in the release.

His “volunteers contacted their friends and neighbors and canvassed the community to collect the petitions,” the release continued. “They also collected them at local club and neighborhood associations.”

Knight added, “I can’t thank the volunteers enough, and I also appreciate everyone who signed a petition.”

For each of his three elections as sheriff of Sarasota County — he served from 2009 to 2021 — he “always qualified by petition,” the news release pointed out.

Commissioner Neil Rainford. Image from his campaign website

The official qualifying period for the three County Commission races this year — the seats for Districts 1 and 5 also will be on the ballot — will begin at noon on Monday, June 10, and end at noon on Friday, June 14, the Florida Division of Elections reports.

To learn more about Knight’s campaign, visit or email

For information about Rainford’s campaign to retain the District 3 seat, visit his website:

Because of a new law that went into effect on July 1, 2023, the next campaign finance reports for all of the County Commission candidates are due by April 10 at the Supervisor of Elections Office.