Six candidates file for two at-large Sarasota City Commission seats, while multiple people file for county Charter Review Board posts
No last-minute candidate filings for the Sarasota City Commission or the County Commission occurred before the qualifying period ended at noon on June 17, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office’s website shows.
Incumbent County Commissioner Christian Ziegler chose not to run for re-election to the District 2 seat after all. He has told other publications that he plans to work on the re-election campaign of his wife, Bridget Ziegler, who serves on the Sarasota County School Board.
Last year, Christian Ziegler was the lone county commissioner to vote for a District 2 map that would have resulted in a flip-flop of Districts 1 and 2. Since the board members’ redrawing of their five district boundaries in November 2019, the current configuration of District 2 continues to favor Democratic candidates, based on past voting trends.
A Republican, Ziegler also is vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida. In November 2018, he won the District 2 seat with 55.55% of the votes, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office says. His Democratic opponent was Ruta Maria Jouniari of Sarasota.
The total number of voters in that race was 204,617, the Supervisor of Election Office records further note. That was one of the highest turnouts among countywide races and referenda during that general election, the results show.
The November 2018 ballot also included a proposed amendment to the Sarasota County Charter that called for electing county commissioners from single-member districts: Only a voter living in the same district as persons seeking that district seat could vote for one of those candidates. The Charter amendment won approval of nearly 70% of the county voters who participated in that referendum. Although the County Commission conducted a second referendum this March in an effort to restore countywide voting for county commission seats, that initiative failed. Thus, Ziegler would have had to face a Democrat in the November 2022 General Election if he had filed for re-election and won the Republican Primary, but without the support of voters across the county.
Three Democrats will face each other in the Aug. 23 Primary Election for the District 2 seat: Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody, former Sarasota Mayor and Commissioner Fredd Atkins, and Siesta Key resident Mike Cosentino, who owns a construction company.
Two other Siesta Key residents will vie for voters’ support in the District 2 Republican Primary: long-time community activist Lourdes Ramirez and architect Mark Smith, who has held leadership positions for decades with the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce.
In the District 4 race, Democrat Daniel Kuether of Sarasota filed a couple of weeks ago. With no competition, he will meet the winner of the Aug. 23 Republican Primary — either former Venice City Council member Joe Neunder or construction company owner Mark Hawkins of Sarasota, who previously served on the county’s Charter Review Board.
Commissioner Alan Maio, who won the District 4 seat in 2014 and 2018, is term-limited.
The Sarasota City Commission and Charter Review Board races
In the election for the two at-large Sarasota City Commission seats, Brody’s decision to seek a County Commission seat has left Commissioner and former Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch as the only incumbent seeking re-election. She won her seat in May 2017. However, voters’ approval of a November 2018 referendum on changing the city election schedule has kept her and Brody in their seats longer than the usual four years.
The others who have filed for the at-large seats are Carl Shoffstall, president of the Lido Key Residents Association and a past chair of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Environmental Protection Advisory Board; Terrill Salem, a general contractor who is chair of the city Planning Board; Debbie Trice, past president of the Rosemary District Association; Sheldon Rich, owner of a healthcare consulting company and a member of the city’s Police Complaint Committee; and attorney Dan Lobeck, president of the nonprofit Control Growth Now.
In other election news, one incumbent on the Sarasota County Charter Review Board is facing challengers this year. That board has 10 members — two from each of the five County Commission districts — who are elected to serve staggered, four-year terms.
Republican Alexandra Coe, who was elected in November 2020 to a two-year term for District 1, will meet Republican Les Nichols of Sarasota in the August Primary. A Democrat — Nancy M.H. Simpson of Sarasota — has filed to run, as well.
Nichols says in his candidate’s statement that he is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who has been working in property management and real estate for more than 22 years.
On her LinkedIn account, Simpson describes herself as an entrepreneur with experience in handling hazard mitigation, floodplain management, land-use planning and public policy. Her firm is Hoover Floodplain Consulting LLC.
Coe, an anthropologist, won her seat with 62.81% of the vote in November 2020, beating Walter L. Gilbert III, who had no party affiliation.
Among other Charter Review Board races, Sarasota Democrat Ray Porter has filed for a two-year District 4 term. He will face Republican Jack Miller, also of Sarasota. (On his candidate’s statement filed with the Supervisor of Elections Office, Miller wrote that his name formally is John Strother Miller.)
Two candidates also have qualified for the District 2 seat open this year: Republican G. Matthew Brockway of Sarasota, who is an attorney with the Icard Merrill firm; and Jae Langston D. Williams, a Sarasota Democrat who is director of human resources at the Suncoast School for Innovative Studies, according to Williams’ LinkedIn account.
Republican Andrew J. Kirby of Venice, who filed for a District 3 seat; Republican Clayton W. Taylor, a Casey Key resident who filed for a four-year term as a District 4 representative; and Republican Joe Justice of Venice, who has filed for re-election to a District 5 seat, have no opposition, the Supervisor of Elections Office records say.