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Bennett, Stehle eyeing Manatee Commission

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  • | 1:35 p.m. September 12, 2011
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The seven-member Manatee County Commission might look a little more business-friendly should two local businessmen decide to enter two key races in the 2012 election and win.

State Senate President Pro-tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, says he's seriously considering taking on incumbent County Commissioner Joe McClash for the at-large District 7 seat. McClash, a Republican, who was first elected in 1990, has butted heads with the local business community for many years by supporting large increases in impact fees and redesigning developers' site plans from the dais.

Bennett, who faces term limits next year, says he expects to make a decision in early September. Initially, Bennett announced he would run for Congress, then decided he'd rather stay closer to his southwest Manatee County home.

McClash, a former owner of an air-conditioning service company, has not yet filed to run for re-election. A call to McClash was not returned prior to press time.

Paul Stehle, vice president of Manatee-based Climatic Conditioning Co., says he's considering a run at the District 5 seat. “It's 70/30 that I'm going to do it,” says the Republican, who also plans to make a decision soon. “I've always been interested in politics,” adds Stehle. “I think I have some background for that.”

Stehle has been involved in leadership roles in several trade associations and boards locally and statewide.

Commissioner Donna Hayes, who is not seeking re-election, currently holds the southeastern county district seat. Republican businesswoman Vanessa Baugh, owner and president of Vanessa Fine Jewelers on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, filed to run for the seat in May and recently held a fundraiser.

District 1 Commissioner Larry Bustle and District 3 Commissioner John Chappie, both Republicans, have both filed to run for re-election. Neither one yet has an opponent.



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