For years, county elections supervisor jobs were viewed as mundane administrative posts with so little public policy work that most politicians did not even consider running for them. Now, along Florida’s west coast, seasoned political players are looking to parlay their years of experience in partisan battles into an advantage in becoming elections overseers.
• In Sarasota County, three-term county commissioner Jon Thaxton, a Republican, is challenging supervisor Kathy Dent.
• In Manatee County, state Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton developer known for antagonizing Democrats in Tallahassee, is banking that his decade of name recognition will help him succeed retiring supervisor of elections Bob Sweat.
• In Charlotte County, former four-term county commissioner Adam Cummings is looking to unseat first-term incumbent Paul Stamoulis.
• In Hillsborough County, former state Rep. Rich Gloriso, a Republican, passed up an opportunity to run for the state Senate to instead run for supervisor of elections.
It’s part of a trend term limits created in Florida politics, said University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus. Limits on how long state legislators and local officials can serve have forced politicians to seek new avenues to remain in public office.
Elected officials once typically followed a progression from local to state to national positions as they opened, or remained in the same post, sometimes for decades. Now, candidates at the local and state levels jump for openings wherever they are, she said. “There’s a political class out there that just loves to be elected officials,” MacManus said.
It’s easy to see why the local offices have appeal, MacManus said. Most constitutional officers are paid salaries of more than $100,000 a year and don’t have to travel to Tallahassee or Washington like other elected officials. “Everyone in Tallahassee is tired of being poor,” Bennett joked.