Baugh’s decision not to seek state House seat leads challengers to at-large campaign

MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh’s decision not to seek a state legislative seat is shifting the focus of candidates who wanted to be her replacement to challenge Commissioner Carol Whitmore’s re-election bid instead.

Earlier this month, Baugh, a Republican, filed paperwork to run for State House District 73. State Rep. Joe Gruters, also a Republican, intends to seek a seat State Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, will vacate so he can compete for a congressional office.

Baugh’s announcement prompted Barbara Hemingway, a Republican, to announce her candidacy in County Commission District 5 — which spans from the suburb Peridia east to Myakka City.

It also prompted Melony Fletcher Howard, a Democrat, to withdraw her challenge to Republican Whitmore’s bid for a fourth term in the countywide District 6 race.

After Baugh, who won a second term as a commissioner two years ago, announced that she will remain on that board, Hemingway registered and Howard registered again to compete with Whitmore for the at-large seat.

Candace M. Luther, who has no party affiliation, and James Satcher, a Republican, are also running in that countywide race. Corie Holmes, a Republican, withdrew as one of Whitmore's challengers last month.

In County Commission District 2, which spans east Bradenton and Palmetto, Democratic incumbent Charles Smith faces a primary challenge by Reginald J. Bellamy. Dimitrie Denis and Paul M. Finer seek the Republican nomination.

In County Commission District 4, which encompasses much of the south county between Cortez Road and the Sarasota County line, incumbent Robin DiSabatino chose not to seek a third term. Erika Lundquist, a Democrat, and Republicans Laurie Galle, Misty Servia and Mark D. Black are vying to become DiSabatino’s replacement.