Record Fundraising Already For Sarasota Hospital Races

Todays News

Photo courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

The races for the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board this year have already become the most expensive ever. Three candidates posted fundraising of $15,000 or more for the partisan elections.

That takes place as a clear division becomes clear, particularly in the Republican Primary, between two slates of candidates.

On one side is an anti-privatization slate, where most of the financial support has surfaced to date. Incumbents Sharon Wetzler DePeters (seat 1) and Sarah Lodge (Central district) are part of that group, along with Mote Marine executive Kevin Cooper (seat 2) and Sarasota Memorial executive Pam Beitlich (seat 3).

Meanwhile, a medical freedom slate demanding major changes at the district, potentially including its privatization, is led by Mary Flynn O’Neill (seat 3), sister to former Donald Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn. O’Neill is running with a slate including, Dr. Tamzin Rosenwasser (seat 1), Kendra Becker-Musante (seat 2) and Tonya Parus (Central district). Another candidate, Dr. Stephen Guffanti (seat 2) has also spoken for medical freedom and accused Sarasota Memorial of once holding him in COVID isolation against his will.

Beitlich, now Sarasota Memorial’s executive director of Women and Children’s Services, has amassed the most in contributions. In the first quarter of the year, she raised $18,145. That’s more than anyone has spent to win a seat on the board (Britt Riner in 2020 spent $15,000 to win a seat 3 post).

“I can’t thank the people of this community enough for rallying behind my campaign to ensure every Sarasota County resident continues to receive the very best health care that they have come to expect from SMH,” she said in a statement.

Cooper, Vice President of Communications and Strategic Initiatives for Mote Marine Laboratory, has raised nearly as much, reporting $16,128. “It just goes to show how important access to quality medical care is to the residents of this community,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Lodge put in $15,000 out of pocket to defend her seat and DePeters reported $5,100 raised to do the same.

Rossenwasser has raised the most of the medical freedom candidates, about $700. O’Neill has collected $200 and Parus reported $170. Neither Becker-Musante nor Guffanti has reported any donation to date.

Those candidates, sans Guffanti, have a collective website laying out a shared platform demanding trust and truth with the local hospital. “Our slate is committed to promoting innovative healthcare technologies, preventive care, and wellness education. We believe that when individuals are empowered to make informed healthcare decisions and have access to high-quality care, it creates a healthier environment for all Sarasota County residents,” the website said.

Looking beyond the primary, three Democrats have also filed for seats on the board. None is currently expected to face a primary. George Davis (seat 3) has been the most prolific fundraiser, reporting $3,375 in contributions, not as much as any of the anti-privatization Republicans but more than any medical freedom candidate. John Lutz (seat 2) has reported $100 in contributions. Alan Jerome Spitzer (seat 1) has reported no fundraising to date.

Photo courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

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