Ramirez obtains enough signatures to waive filing fee for County Commission race

District 4 incumbent Alan Maio remains well ahead of challengers in fundraising

Lourdes Ramirez. Image from her campaign website

One candidate for the Sarasota County Commission District 4 race has gathered enough petitions to place her name on the August Republican Primary ballot. At the same time, she and the other woman vying for the seat held by Commissioner Alan Maio both are making some headway in raising funds, the latest campaign records show.

Still, Maio is maintaining a clear financial advantage over his Republican competitor — Lourdes Ramirez of Siesta Key — and Democrat Wesley Beggs of Sarasota.

On May 21, Ramirez announced that she had obtained almost 3,300 signatures of registered voters, so she would not have to pay a filing fee to secure a position on the primary ballot. To qualify in this election cycle, she noted in a news release, a candidate must submit signed petitions from 3,019 registered voters or turn in a qualifying fee of more than $5,000.

The fee for political party candidates equals 6% of the annual salary of the office being sought, Florida Statute 99.092 says. A Sarasota County commissioner’s salary for the 2018 fiscal year is $86,634, according to the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

To have the fee waived, state law says a candidate must submit petitions with signatures equal to at least 1% of the total number of registered voters in the geographical area represented by the office the candidate is seeking.

Ramirez, who filed for the District 4 race in February, began gathering petitions in early March, she added in the news release. Her signature total was 3,266, she said.

As for financial data: Through May 7, Ramirez reported $9,338 in monetary contributions, and she has loaned her campaign $3,300, for a total of $12,638. She also has received $3,646.15 in in-kind services, the records show.

Wesley Beggs. Image from her campaign website

One contribution in early April came from Alexandra Coe, a Republican vying for the District 2 seat on the County Commission. Coe is set to face Republican Christian Ziegler in the August primary, while Ruta Jouniari of Sarasota is running as a Democrat.

Beggs was slightly ahead of Ramirez in the monetary contribution category as of May 10, with a total of $9,577. She also has reported a total of $797.82 in in-kind services. Yet, while Ramirez had spent only $471.94, Beggs reported total expenditures of $2,108.49.

Two payments Ramirez noted in her latest finance report were for verification of her petitions. One charge was $97.90, while the second was $64.70.

Maio remained well ahead of both challengers through April, state records showed. His May 9 report shows a total of $87,339 in monetary contributions and $474.89 in in-kind services. He also loaned his campaign $10,000 in April, the records note. That puts his total through April at $97,339.

Maio also has outspent Ramirez and Beggs, reporting $9,166.05 in that category.

For the month of April, Ramirez received money from 22 individuals, her report says. Beggs reported 99 people gave her funds, including a number of $5 contributions in cash.

Beggs received a total of $5,585 in the form of cash or checks, while Ramirez noted $2,400 in cash or checks for April. Ramirez also received another $1,534.80 that month in in-kind services for the month, compared to $119 for Beggs.

Among people who have contributed to Beggs’ campaign are Keith Fitzgerald, a professor at New College — Beggs’ alma mater, who also served two terms in the Florida Legislature (2006-2010); Peter Tannen, the past president of the Sarasota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union; Rita Ferrandino, former chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party; Jordan Letschert, who filed for the District 4 race earlier this year but withdrew after winning a seat on the board of the Florida Democratic Party; and several people identified as students in the records.

Beggs’ biggest expense, the report shows, was $616.05 paid to Mattison’s Catering of Sarasota for an event. Among her other payments were two to Facebook for ads and two to office supply stores

Commissioner Alan Maio. Image courtesy Sarasota County

According to The Sarasota News Leader’s review of Maio’s April report, he received 40 checks that month. One $200 contribution came from the Florida Fire-PAC.

Among other contributors that month were Waste Management of Florida; chiropractor Joseph Neunder, who serves on the county’s Planning Commission; attorneys Jim and Charlie Ann Syprett of Siesta Key, who own property on the island, which is in District 4; state Rep. Jim Boyd’s insurance firm in Bradenton; Fox Lea Farm in Venice; Gold Coast Eagle Distributing in Lakewood Ranch; and Robert Moore, CEO of Venice Regional Bayfront Health.

The only expense Maio reported for April was $350 to the Venice CPA firm of Robinson, Hanks Young and Roberts. The Robinson in that firm is Eric Robinson, a member of the Sarasota County School Board. He has handled campaign finances for a number of candidates over the years.