New Democratic challenger files for District 1 seat Moran seeks to retain this year

Latest campaign finance records show Moran with clear fundraising lead, along with numerous contributions from developers

Commissioner Michael Moran. Image courtesy Sarasota County

If incumbent Sarasota County Commissioner Michael Moran wins the Republican Primary for the District 1 board seat, then he likely will face a Democratic challenger, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

In fact, the latest person to file for the District 1 seat lives in the same community as Moran — The Meadows, which borders Honore Avenue in the eastern part of the county. A Marsh Field Road resident, Mark E. Pienkos, figuratively threw his hat in the ring as a Democrat on March 27.

A second Democratic challenger, Fredd Atkins of Newtown, is one of the three lead plaintiffs in a class action complaint fighting the new County Commission district boundaries the board members approved last year on a 3-2 vote. Moran was part of the prevailing majority, along with Commissioners Nancy Detert and Alan Maio. Atkins’ participation in the District 1 race will depend on the decision of a federal judge following a bench trial scheduled to start May 11. (See the related article in this issue.)

In a statement on the Sarasota County Democratic Party website, Pienkos wrote, “My decision to run is to assure that there will be a Democratic challenger for the District 1 seat in the event the lawsuit to restore the ‘old map’ is unsuccessful. It is imperative that single member districts have competitive races for voters to choose who they want to represent them.”

In the latter part of his statement, Pienkos was referring to a Sarasota County Charter amendment voters approved in November 2018. Beginning this year, a voter will be able to cast ballots only for candidates who live in the same district as the voter. Previously, all county commissioners were elected countywide.

The second Republican candidate to file for the District 1 seat was Mike Hutchinson, a retired software engineer who also lives in the new configuration of the district. He launched his candidacy on March 10, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office records show.

Moran himself filed for re-election on Feb. 3, the Supervisor of Elections Office website says.

Mark Pienkos. Image from his campaign website

The most recent financial documents submitted by the candidates show Moran with a clear fundraising lead. As of his April 3 report, he had raised $41,909 in monetary contributions and $82.64 in in-kind contributions. His expenditures as of April 3 totaled $5,419.21.

In 2016, Moran raised $102,387.99, his last campaign finance report for that race showed.

Atkins, who filed for the race on Aug. 27, 2019, had total monetary contributions of $26,454 as of April 1, his most recent financial report noted. He had spent $18,416.88 through March 31, the report said.

His biggest month for contributions was September 2019, Supervisor of Elections Office records show; then, he took in $10,640 in monetary contributions and $25.16 in in-kind contributions, while spending $1,895.12.

In March, with no certainty about whether his campaign would be able to continue, Atkins reported monetary contributions of $1,260 and expenditures of $2,096.82, the records showed.

Atkins’ contributors

Fredd ‘Glossie’ Atkins. Image contributed by the candidate

In reviewing the financial reports for Atkins and Moran, the News Leader found that Atkins received 124 monetary contributions in September 2019. The amounts ranged from $10 to the maximum of $200. In fact, one person gave Atkins $300, only to have the campaign return $100 of that, the report said.

Among those who contributed to the campaign were Ian Black, head of a prominent commercial real estate firm in the community, who gave Atkins $200; retired City of Sarasota Auditor and Clerk Billy Robinson ($200); former City Commissioner Ken Shelin ($200); past Sarasota County Democratic Party Chairs Christine Jennings ($100) and Rita Ferrandino ($100); Dr. Mark Kauffman, a Sarasota developer who long has been a leader of the Downtown Improvement District in the city of Sarasota ($100); New College Professor and former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald ($25); Sarasota City Commissioner Willie Shaw ($100); and former Sarasota City Auditor and Clerk Pamela Nadalini ($200).

In his March report, Atkins itemized 23 contributions. They ranged from $20 to $200, with the majority — 21 — at the $100 level or smaller. In fact, only one of them was for $200; that was from Dr. Stephen Lexow of Sarasota.

The Moran financial reports

In his initial campaign finance report, Moran detailed contributions totaling $5,649.

Among his initial contributors were Jack Brill of Longboat Key, acting chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota ($100); Sheriff Tom Knight ($200); Thomas Dabney II, one of the owners and developers of the Hi Hat Ranch property in the eastern part of the county ($200); Sarasota developer Fred M. Starling, founder and CEO of the Starling Group ($200), along with Starling’s Cattleridge Development Corp. ($200), KNS Development Corp. ($200), Star Asset Managers LLC ($200), and Lakeridge Investment Corp. ($200); plus Angela Massaro-Fain of Bradenton, co-founder of Grapevine Communications ($100).

In his March campaign finance report, Moran itemized monetary contributions of $36,260, the Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE) records show.

James Gabbert awaits the start of the Aug. 23, 2017 on his proposed construction waste recycling plant. File photo

Among the names on that list are those of Sarasota land-use attorneys Dan Bailey and Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker firm ($200 each); the Boone, Boone & Boone law firm in Venice ($200), which also handles land-use and real estate issues, plus individual contributions of $200 each from attorneys Stuart Boone, Annette Boone, Jeffrey Boone, Jackson Boone and Stephen Boone; State Attorney Ed Brodsky ($100); Moran’s fellow commissioner Nancy Detert ($100); Jack Cox of Halfacre Construction Co. ($200) and the company itself ($200); Fred Derr of Osprey, chair and CEO of the Frederick Derr & Co. construction firm ($200), along with the company itself ($200); James Gabbert, whose proposal for a construction waste recycling facility near the Celery Fields won Moran’s support but failed to garner a majority board vote in August 2017 ($200), plus $200 from the Gabbert Investment Group, $200 from Gabbert’s M&G Investment Properties LLC, and $200 from Gabbert’s firm TST Ventures LLC.

Yet other contributors noted in that March report were Genesis Planning and Development in Bradenton, whose principal, Robert “Bo” Medred often represents developers seeking County Commission approval for projects ($200), and Medred himself ($200); real estate manager John Harshman of Sarasota ($200); Sarasota general contractor Philip Kellogg ($200) and Kellogg’s firm, Kellogg & Kimsey Inc. ($200); Jon Mast, CEO of the Manatee-Sarasota Business Industry Association ($100) and Mast’s wife, Teresa, a member of the county’s Planning Commission ($100); Commissioner Alan Maio ($200) and two members of Maio’s family — Maio’s wife ($200), and his son, Adam ($200); developer and former state Sen. Pat Neal ($200); Neal’s son, John, through three companies — John Neal Homes of Lakewood Ranch ($200), Neal Land Ventures ($200), and University Park Lifestyles ($200); attorney John Patterson, husband of former County Commissioner Nora Patterson ($200); developer and former Planning Commission member Robert Morris III ($200); Neil Rainford, a recently appointed Planning Commission member ($200); Colin Pember, another Planning Commission member ($200); developer Henry Rodriguez ($200) and Rodriguez’s company, Sarasotaville of Siesta Key LLC ($200); attorney Ronald Shapo of Sarasota, chair of the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA) board ($200); and general contractor Jon Swift, whose eponymous firm is in Sarasota ($200).

Altogether, 212 contributions were listed on Moran’s March report. One company — RSP USA Inc. of Bradenton — gave $300, so $100 had to be returned to it. The principal of that firm is developer Steve Snyder, Florida Division of Corporations records show. Snyder also gave $150 as an individual, the list noted, and a member of his family with the same address gave $150.

The biggest single expense Moran had in March was $3,288.59, which was paid to Signature Events & Catering of Sarasota for a campaign event, Moran’s financial report indicates.

Hutchinson’s campaign finances

Mike Hutchinson. Image from his campaign website

Through March, Republican Hutchinson had a total of $10,000.11 in monetary contributions and $476.21 in in-kind contributions, his latest report shows.

He loaned $10,000 to his campaign and provided the in-kind support, as well, the document says. The largest total for that in-kind list was $175.21, identified as a printing expense. Another $132 was for the creation of a campaign website, the list indicates.

Finally, the 11 cents was interest from Centennial Bank in Conway, Ark., the document notes.