State Senator Mike Bennett considering running for Manatee Commission

Aug 28, 2011

The following article was published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune on August 28, 2011:

Bennett considering running for Manatee Commission

By Jeremy Wallace

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has been one of the toughest critics of county commissioners in the region over his 11 years in the Florida Legislature.

He’s blasted them for over spending and what he believes is the mishandling of growth and development issues.

But now, Bennett is thinking seriously about trying to join the group he’s been so prone to criticize.

“I’m looking at it,” Bennett said when asked if he is considering running for the Manatee County Commission.

Term limits prevent Bennett from running for another four years in the Florida Senate, but Bennett said he has no interest in leaving politics.

“I don’t want to hang up my hat and go home,” Bennett, 66, said.

Bennett earlier this year announced he would run for Congress in the 11th Congressional District, but changed his mind, saying he didn’t want to commute to Washington.

But he said a commission seat might be better because it would keep him in the county.

“I love public policy,” Bennett said. “I’m giving it serious serious consideration.”

In the Senate Bennett has represented District 21, which ranges from Bradenton, through Sarasota and Charlotte to Lee County.

If Bennett runs for the commission, his target would likely be the District 5 Manatee County commission seat held by Republican Donna Hayes, who is not seeking re-election.

Vanessa Baugh, a businesswoman from Lakewood Ranch, is the only Republican to file to run for the seat so far.

Unexpected greeting

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, braced for a tough homecoming when he held his first public events after a rough summer in Washington for Congress.

The overheated battle over the debt ceiling has already made life uncomfortable for others who voted for the compromise bill as Buchanan did.

In Washington state, protesters lined the streets and blocked traffic at a town hall meeting. In Ohio, another congressman found signs calling him names. In New Mexico curse words were hurled at another representative.

“People are mad at everybody,” Buchanan said. “You never know when you set one up how it is going to turn out.”

But Buchanan found a mostly friendly reception at an open house held in Bradenton Wednesday and a town hall in North Port on Thursday. At both events, residents complained about the benefits members of Congress get compared to the rest of the nation and the national debt, but it never boiled over.

Despite the charged atmosphere, Buchanan said he never considered avoiding a meeting. Buchanan has had dozens over the last two years.

“I think it is important to do,” Buchanan said in North Port. “And I think it is important for people to be able to express themselves.”

At both the North Port and Bradenton meetings Buchanan said he voted for the debt ceiling increase but was not happy about it. He said the deal to cut $2.1 trillion from the budget over 10 years is not enough to get the nation’s financial troubles under control.

At the North Port meeting, Buchanan told about 100 people that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have become too costly, taxes for manufacturers should be cut to keep jobs in the U.S., and that the tax code should be made simpler.

Redistricting hearing

How the Florida Legislature should draw up new congressional districts and state Legislature districts will be the focus of a public hearing on the New College campus Tuesday.

Lawmakers have held similar meetings around the state to get public input redrawing the districts starting in January.

All districts have to be redrawn to rebalance the number of people represented to account for population shifts over the last decade. The result is likely to be a major change in who represents parts of of Sarasota and Manatee counties in Congress and in the Legislature.

For Sarasota and Manatee, one of the top items will be whether the two counties are divided into separate congressional districts or remain mostly together as they have been for the last 20 years.

The hearing is at 6 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the Sudakoff Center on the New College of Florida.

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