News Section: Local Government
Palmetto Commissioner to Challenge for County Seat
BRADENTON – Palmetto City Commissioner Charles Smith stood before a dozen supporters at City Hall Wednesday to announce his candidacy for Manatee County Commission District 2. Smith says Palmetto pays plenty in taxes, but gets little in return. The heavily-Democratic district is currently represented by Michael Gallen, who defeated longtime incumbent Gwen Brown in an open-Democratic primary back in 2010.
Smith says he "hasn't seen anything happen," in District 2, which covers much of urban Bradenton and Palmetto (part of West Palmetto is included in District 1). Smith, who won election to his commission seat this past November after being appointed to fill the Ward 1 seat vacated by Mary Lancaster, says he is "unhappy with the current representation," which is "not what Palmetto needs in order to prosper." Smith said, "We need someone proactive north of the river, and we are just not getting it."
Smith's Palmetto commission term ends in November 2014, just in time to take the county commission seat, should he win the election. Smith said, "I intend to live up to my commitment to the city."
The commissioner took issue to the amount of investment in development, which he said doesn't seem to make it north of the river.
"People here are asking me for help," said Smith, adding, "We pay plenty in taxes, but we get little in return." Smith says he has the experience to get it done, and if given the chance he would raise issues like the need for more diverse jobs. Smith also said he would "articulate ideas" that would make what he called, "a bad situation" better.
Pastor Charles Williams, Geneva Presha and Theressa Scott were among the supporters at city hall. Smith was also flanked by Henry Lawrence, former NFL Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl Champion, who is also a popular local R&B vocalist. "Charles is the real thing," said Lawrence.
Angela Washington, Lawrence's partner in the Bradenton restaurant and lounge A Touch of Class, was also present for the announcement. Washington said, "He's a fighter, and he cares," when asked why she is supporting Smith.
District 2 is a deliberately gerrymandered district that resulted from a compromise to a lawsuit by the NAACP, to help ensure an opportunity for minority representation. As most African Americans in the Republican-dominated county are registered with the Democratic Party, the district has long been the only in which a Democrat not only has a realistic chance of winning, but is unlikely to even draw a Republican opponent.
As such, the Democratic primary usually decides the seat. According to Florida law, if no one outside the party files to run, the primary race becomes open to all voters in the district, regardless of their registration status.
Current District 2 Manatee Commissioner Michael Gallen is friends with City Commissioner Smith and neither have been quoted as saying anything negative about the other. Although the race for District 2 may be more than a year away from when the first bumper sticker appears, the discussion on issues and what both have in mind for the district has just begun.