Atkins Feels Close As Ever To County Commission Seat

Todays News

The fight for a winnable Sarasota County Commission district is one Fredd Atkins waged for decades. Now he hopes to win election as the District 2 member of the board. “It’s been a labor of love, and I have loved it,” Atkins said.

The Democrat faces Republican Mark Smith on Nov. 8.

Atkins, a former Sarasota Mayor, has been outspent, raising $74,093 to Smith’s $181,325. But he feels decades of name recognition will prove invaluable on Election Day. It’s not just two long stints on the Sarasota City Commission or his history as Sarasota’s first Black Mayor.

“I have been bigger than the City of Sarasota; I’m an international Black man,” he said. “I am consistent, I am persistent, I am unbought and I am unbowed.”

He’s also a Democrat. And thanks to a change to single-member district voting four years ago, one voters affirmed in a special election earlier this year, that gives his a statistical advantage in this race— albeit a slight one. District 2 as of the latest voter registration report on Oct. 7 served as home to 25,013 registered Democrats and 23,542 registered Republicans, along with 17,083 voters with no party affiliation and 1,411 registered with minor parties. 

That hasn’t stopped Atkins from being outspent, but he won the Democratic primary despite having the least amount of cash of three Democratic candidates.

This isn’t his first run for the county commission, but it’s the first time he has been able to run a district level race. He faced County Commissioner Al Maio in an countywide race for the District 1 seat six years ago. He filed to challenge Maio again in 2020, but a decision to redistrict then, one Atkins challenged unsuccessfully in court, denied voters of that rematch. Then this year, County Commissioner Christian Ziegler chose not to seek a second term, and the contest to fill the District 2 seat became top tier.

This im many ways marks the second march for Atkins down a similar path. He worked with the NAACP in the 1980s as litigation eventually led to the election of district commissioners on the Sarasota City Commission. After working on much of the research fueling a lawsuit against the city, Atkins won election as the first District 1 City Commissioner, and a few years later was elevated by peers to the role of Mayor.

More than his political party, Atkins said he brings to the race a level of independence. He already imagines the changes that could take place on the board over the next four years, when all commissioners elected before the return of single-member districts will face term limits. Atkins imagines new alliances and commonalities will be found on a board of fresh faces.

“We will have a chess match on how to get respect, then figure out who has the best interest of the people at heart,” Atkins said.

 

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