News Section: Election 2012
Michael Bennett to be Manatee County Supervisor of Elections
BRADENTON -- Michael Bennett (R) won the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections post 57-41 percent over Charles Williams (D), despite controversial comments made about making it harder for citizens to vote, during a debate on new state laws he helped to pass, that opponents say were designed to suppress the votes of minorities and the poor. An incumbent state Senator facing term limits, Bennett raised more than all other seven candidates that filed to run for the seat combined.
Bennett said during debate over the passage of Florida's new voter ID and early-voting laws, "I don't have a problem making it harder (to vote). I want the people in the state of Florida to want to vote as badly as that person in Africa who is willing to walk 200 miles for that opportunity he’s never had before in his life. This should not be easy.”
The Senator dialed those comments back during the general election and was aided in looking moderate by write-in candidate Rodney "Smokey" Smithley, whose positions on voting laws were far to the right of even Bennett. During an METV debate, Smithley said, “Since 9/11, we know that our country is not safe anymore, and I feel that we need to have something in place that is gonna stop this fraud. Mainstream America – to go in any government buildings we need to have ID's to go in there, so that the government knows who we are and that we're American citizens, and I'm letting the public know and Manatee County know that the (voting) fraud is running rampant in this country and in Florida, and we need to get it under control.”
Smithley managed less votes than any other countywide race that featured write-in candidates, despite being the only one who actively campaigned. Bennett will replace retiring SOE Bob Sweat, generally considered one of the best supervisors in the state of Florida, who is retiring from office. Former state rep. Bill Galvano easily won an election to replace his close friend Bennett in the Florida Senate.