Baugh Announces State House Run



In the six years since Vanessa Baugh won a seat on the Manatee County Commission, the Lakewood Ranch businesswoman says she’s always particularly enjoyed the chance to work with local lawmakers on state policy. “I have the utmost respect for all of the lawmakers who have been in Tallahassee and have been just fantastic on forming Manatee and Sarasota counties to be what they are today,” Baugh says. So at the news that state Rep. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, would seek higher office, Baugh decided she had to take this chance to run. Last week, she mailed in her papers to run in District 73. 

“It’s rare you get the opportunity to run for one of these seats,” she says. “It’s always looked like that would be exciting. I never felt I would be put into a position to be able to run.”

Now Baugh hopes voters look at her record in Manatee County and see a reason to send her to the state capital. She first won her term on the Manatee Commission in 2012, beating now-School Board member John Colon in the Republican primary and former Bradenton City Councilman James Golden in the general election. She defended the seat in 2016, fending off a primary challenge by Lakewood Ranch Community Development board member Kathleen Grant.

Tho go to Tallahassee, Baugh will first need to win a Republican primary against for military attorney Tommy Gregory, and the open seat may draw more competitors. One man whose run for the seat before, Tea Party activist Steve Vernon, last week endorsed Gregory. Democrat Liv Coleman, a Tampa University professor, has filed to run as well.

Baugh believes her strong public service record will set her apart. “Experience, experience, experience,” she answers as her strongest asset. “I’ve lived in the area since 1999 and served on multiple board in Sarasota and Manatee so I’m versed in both counties’ needs. I’ve visited Tallahassee during session on multiple occasions, and I have to experience to keep moving it forward.”

She knows how to “bring him the bacon,” she says, and boasts a working understanding of the infrastructure needs. She sees the significance of controversial entities like Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, expressing hope transparency guards put in place in the last two years allow those agencies to do good work attracting tourists and business growth to Florida.

And moving from local government into state government, she can bring a perspective to an entity sometimes at odds with jurisdictions back home. “It’s important for local and state officials to have close relationships and to work closely together,” she says. “In Manatee County we’ve done that.” She notes the work commissioners did with retiring state Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, on landmark opioid legislation signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott at a special ceremony in the area last month. She also has been on the county side of debates on home rule and unfunded mandates.

“But it’s interesting too, we on the local level don’t always really understand why something on a state level has come forward sometimes, and it will be interesting to communicate that perspective and then share that back to local government.” Baugh wants to be an official that speaks the language of lawmakers and county commissioners.

As a staunch conservative, she also feels prepared to jump into issues like gun control, a matter that took over session this year following a mass shooting at a Parkland high school. Lawmakers and the governor ultimately pushed through a bill now being challenged in court by the NRA. Baugh says she feels strongly about Second Amendment rights and can’t say if she would support the bill. But, she stresses, that’s because of the lengthy and debate in Tallahassee. She was in Tallahassee to see the emotional issue play out in part.  “You are talking about a tough situation, a lot harder than most people realize,” she says. “I would never second guess anyone on their vote, nor would I share my views at this point. It’s to show respect to the students, parents and legislators that have had to deal with that.”

The primary election in District 73 is scheduled for Aug. 28, with the general election on Nov. 6.

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