New Faces Enter Rare Dem Primary

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY APR 12, 2018

A rare Democratic primary for Sarasota County Commission will test two new, young faces in local politics, only one of whom might go head-to-head with an incumbent in November. Retired police officer Jordan Letschert this week filed for the District 4 seat, where New College alum Wesley Beggs has already been rallying party support. Both candidates so far only have kind words for one another, but they bring different styles and stories to the race.

Beggs, a 24-year-old activist making her first run for office, says she’s closely watched the Sarasota County Commission for close to a decade and now wants to shake things up. Her final straw, she says, was watching Commissioner Alan Maio vote in favor of allowing a recycling plant near Celery Fields, and while that project failed to win approval, it came too close for Beggs’ comfort. “I refer to that as my tipping point, but for years I’ve been upset with what was going on,” she says, laying out other grievances including the county vacation of Beach Road.

Letschert, meanwhile, comes to the race focused on school safety, promising to donate half his salary as commissioner toward the hire of an additional student resource officer to guard county schools. “Hopefully once I get into office, that would maybe force others to do that as well,” he says. A Sarasota native who moved to Texas and served for four years in the Richardson Police, since returning to the Gulf Coast he also served on the City of Sarasota’s Police Complaint Board. He hopes that record of public service proves to voters he can move easily into elected office.

Letschert said for the past six weeks, he pondered entering a newly opened state Senate contest, but ultimately was drawn back to the local race, largely because he and husband Robby have a child at home now under the age of 2. The idea of telling his son goodnight over FaceTime seemed a daunting prospect. As a candidate, he wants to prove you can be pro-business while protecting the environment, and says he will support growth that’s justified and which doesn’t threaten natural resources or draw the intense protest of most neighbors.

For Beggs, she sees the race as a chance to improve the home she has loved her whole life. A native of Tampa, she came to Sarasota to attend New College eight years ago, and she’s watched the impact of over-development on Florida firsthand. “I feel Florida has grown up alongside me,” she says. The candidate hopes to fund her race with small donations in a grassroots campaign. She’s been hitting party get-togethers and neighborhood meetings in an effort to rally support.

Beggs and Letschert compete in a Democratic primary scheduled for Aug. 28. Incumbent Republican Maio faces challenger Lourdes Ramirez the same day. The winners of the primaries face each other in a general election on Nov. 6. Voters countywide cast votes in the race, but only registered members of political parties can vote in the primary contests.

Pictured: Jordan Letschert and Wesley Beggs

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