A look at who qualified last week for the Manatee County election ballot, whether for the primaries on Aug. 14 or the general election on Nov. 6, leads to these questions:
1. Which of the three Manatee County Commission incumbents on the ballots faces the best chance of being unseated?
You can forget John Chappie -- he is running unopposed for re-election.
But the other two, Larry Bustle and Joe McClash -- who share little in common other than they are military veterans serving on the commission as Republicans -- face challengers in the GOP primary.
As of March 31, Bustle had raised more than $94,000 in campaign contributions, and his GOP challenger, Nathaniel Leonard, had not reported any fund-raising activity. The winner of the primary will face in the general election, Democrat Corie Holmes.
However, the fortunes are reversed for McClash, the longest-serving member of the commission who did not file for re-election until mid-February. He reported $1,500 in contributions, as of March 31, while challenger Betsy Benac, a former county government planner who now works for the Benderson development company, had raised more than $48,000 -- including from some of the same developers backing Bustle.
(Bustle also donated $100 to Benac's campaign.)
The winner of the primary will face two write-in candidates, Scot Findlay and Thomas Dell, in the general election.
2. Can Paul Sharff win a seat on the Manatee County School Board if he doesn't actively campaign?
Sharff, perhaps he best known of the four candidates because of his prominent role in business and Republican politics, says he won't actively campaign for the seat being vacated by Harry Kinnan because he figures his three opponents will want to talk too much about his well publicized financial woes -- as if that is entirely irrelevant for a candidate trying to get elected to the board of directors of a $598 million enterprise.
3. Can a Manatee County school teacher get elected to the school board, even when two of the other candidates might have better name recognition?
Sharff's name recognition may be rivaled in local politics by that of attorney Dave "Watchdog" Miner, a perennial candidate who this year is running for the same seat as Sharff.
The race, the result of which will go a long way to shaping the future direction of the school district, also features two Manatee County school teachers -- Robert Moates, who teaches government and economics at Lakewood Ranch High School; and William Chaltis, who teaches math at Palmetto High School.
As of March 31, Moates was the only one to report any financial activity by his campaign, raising more than $15,000 in contributions.
4. Can Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston win an election in which Bill Evers is not his opponent?
Poston ousted then-mayor Evers in 1999, and then fended off challenges by his predecessor in 2003, and again in 2007, when he won re-election by 23 votes.
This time, Evers is sitting out, giving two fairly prominent figures in local politics a clear crack at the mayor.
Poston this time faces a two-headed political foil -- City Council member Marianne Barnebey and Richard O'Brien, a USF professor and chairman of the Manatee County Democratic Party.
5. Can a current or former elected official get elected to another job?
Several races on the ballot feature current or former elected officials trying to get elected to higher or lower office -- including at least two who lost their previous jobs in prior elections.
The crowded race for Manatee County elections supervisor features two veteran elected officials, state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who couldn't run for re-election to the Senate because of term limits; and Jane von Hahmann, who in 2008 lost her bid for re-election to the Manatee County Commission to Chappie. (They face two other Republicans, Edward Bailey and Richard Bedford, in the GOP primary.)
And in Manatee County Commission District 5, former Bradenton City Council member James Golden, who lost both his bid for re-election and subsequent race for Congress, is seeking the Democratic nomination against Frank Archino. (The winner will face the winner of the GOP primary, Vanessa Baugh or John Colon.)
Other elected officials trying for higher office include Barnebey and former state Rep. Bill Galvano, who is running for the Senate.
6. Can someone from Lake Placid, Fla., who filed to run at almost the last minute beat a veteran politician from Bradenton who has raised more than $378,000 in contributions, in a newly drawn Senate district in which more than 60 percent of the voting age residents live in Manatee County?
Galvano sure hopes not.
7. Who is more likely to keep his job, Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube or his son, state Rep. Greg Steube?
Sheriff Steube's fate will be decided in August, in a "universal" primary against fellow Republican William Waldron. (The primary is "universal" because even non-Republicans will be able to vote, since there isn't a Democratic, independent or write-in candidate.)
Rep. Steube in November will face independent candidate Bob McCann, who was one of the rivals Steube beat in the 2010 Republican primary.
8. Later this summer, will it be possible to watch television without hearing the names "Vern Buchanan" or "Keith Fitzgerald?"
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, has reserved $4 million in TV ad time for his re-election effort, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $2.5 million in the Tampa Bay market -- with presumably a bulk of that likely to be used to benefit Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald.
9. Who is Michael Daugherty and why should we care about the seat he is seeking?
Daugherty is running unopposed for re-election to a seat on the board of directors for perhaps one of the least known, but most vital agencies key to a comfortable life in Manatee, the Manatee County Mosquito Control District.
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