Manatee Commission Race Increasingly Caustic

Todays News

Pictured: Jason Bearden and Carol Whitmore

A Manatee County Commission race has grown increasingly tense in recent days. Republican challenger Jason Bearden attacked County Commissioner Carol Whitmore in a new TV ad calling the incumbent Republican a liberal, while Whitmore has continued to rake Bearden over his support of Bitcoin.

The two face off in an Aug. 23 Republican primary.

Bearden in a new television ad compared Whitmore to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, labeling her as “pro-choice” and saying she “voted for lockdowns” as DeSantis “kept Florida open and free.” “There is nothing Carol Whitmore has in common with Republicans or Ron DeSantis,” the ad states.

But Whitmore, who has the support of Republican leaders including U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and former Senate President Bill Galvano, dismissed the ad. 

“I haven’t seen the ad but anything to distract from his pro-Biden, pro-inflation agenda wouldn’t surprise me,” Whitmore said. “The people of Manatee County do not want their tax dollars invested in a currency that just crashed and that’s exactly what Biden’s Bearden will do.”

Her campaign has leaned on social media posts from Bearden in 2021 when he expressed interest in Bitcoin and in government investment in cryptocurrency, a message less appealing at a time when Bitcoin is down almost 60% year to date.

Mailers from the political committee United Conservatives of Florida slammed Bearden with similar messaging that also compares Bearden to Democratic President Joe Biden. “Joe Biden’s inflation is ruining our economy,” the mailer states. “Jason Bearden could make it worse.”

Friction can be seen elsewhere, including with a criminal complaint Bearden filed against Whitmore after she pulled his campaign signs from the roadside and turned them into police; Whitmore has maintained the signs violated local ordinances and were placed on private property without owners’ permission. The State Attorney’s Office continues to consider the case.

This week, Manatee County School Board member Charlie Kennedy accused Bearden  of violating state privacy laws by posting pictures of himself with school children in a flag ceremony on a campaign Facebook without parental consent. Bearden took the pictures down and asked the original person who posted them to also take them down when he realized the shots were taken without permission.

Pictured: Jason Bearden and Carol Whitmore

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