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Amanda Ballard Files to Run for Redrawn Dist. 2 BOCC Seat

MANATEE COUNTY – Last week, Manatee resident Amanda Ballard announced her candidacy for Manatee County's District 2 commission seat. The district's incumbent, Reggie Bellamy (D-Palmetto) was elected in 2018 after upsetting then-Democratic incumbent Charles Smith in the primary. Smith has also filed to run for a chance to win reelection to his former seat in 2022, but Ballard is the first Republican to announce her candidacy in the District 2 race.

Ballard’s platform sets her as a defender of parental rights, anti-COVID-19 restrictions and mandates, and a passionate supporter of current Florida Republican Governor Ron Desantis.

"In America, Florida, and in Manatee County, individual liberty is what allows all of us to work hard and live out our dreams," Ballard was quoted to have said in her campaign’s official press release. "Thanks to Governor DeSantis, Florida has remained free and a place to realize those dreams."

Ballard said her dream was to learn the law and help those less fortunate than herself.

"It’s freedom that empowers families, not bureaucrats sitting in an ivory tower looking over bloated budgets."

Ballard accused the "woke left" of trying to replace parents with public school administrators, restricting the authority of police, and raising taxes.

"My opponent has done nothing to slow them (the "woke left") down. I am running to change that," Ballard included in her press release statements.

Ballard is the most recent Republican candidate to announce her bid for a seat on the county's commission. In late January, another local Republican, Mike Rahn, declared his candidacy for the county's District 4 seat.

Like Rahn's campaign press release, Ballard's release was also delivered to TBT by Tampa-based political consultant Anthony Pedicini–an individual of note in TBT reporting from early January, as well as the campaign consultant of four currently serving county commissioners.

Also like Rahn, Ballard announced her candidacy after the county's redistricting process drew her into District 2. Ballard's residence previously fell into District 4, and Rahn was drawn into District 4 from his former District 5.

In TBT’s reporting from January titled, Did a Tampa-based Political Consultant Secretly Participate in the Redistricting of Manatee County?, TBTrevealed that a www.davesredistricting.org account registered to a user with the name of "Anthony" was drafting potential county redistricting maps.

District 2, the county's historical minority district, was much of the focus of the redistricting process. An early map entered into the process that current Republican Commissioner Vanessa Baugh claimed to have drawn, traced back to the davesredistricting.org account registered to "Anthony."

The map had significant flaws, including a reduction of District 2’s minority voter population. Baugh’s draft map was later replaced with a draft offered by the county's At-Large Commissioner George Kruse, but Kruse’s revision saved one District 2 change first offered by Baugh's draft–the division of the urban core and removal of downtown Bradenton from District 2.

In the end, the commission approved Kruse's map as the final version of the county's new districts. While the map offered by Kruse did improve upon some deficiencies of Baugh's draft map, it still left District 2 with a decreased Black voter makeup than had previously existed in the district, while raising the Hispanic and White voter populations–although the deviations were slight, by a one percentage point decrease of Black VAP, and two percentage point increases to Hispanic and White VAP.

District 2 has historically provided the opportunity for the district's minority-majority residents to elect preferred representation. District 2 is the only county district to have a Black representative, and all commissioners who have served in the seat have been Democrats since its creation in 1990, which itself was part of a settlement with the NAACP. Every District 2 commissioner but Michael Gallen, who served from 2010-2014, has been Black.

For her part, Ballard is child-welfare attorney for the Department of Children Services in Manatee County. Ballard is a wife and mother to two children. She was born in South Carolina and graduated from the South Carolina School of Law in 2014. According to her Facebook profile, she relocated to Bradenton in 2015.

Records available on the Supervisor of Elections website reveal Ballard's campaign treasurer is Eric Robinson, a rather controversial political figure.

Robinson's past political work and relationship with campaign PACs and political committees made him the recipient of frequent administrative complaints, though Robinson has never been charged with any violations related to the allegations. Robinson has become infamously known in political circles as, "The Prince of Dark Money."

With primary elections around the corner in August, it remains to be seen whether voters are persuaded by newcomers to their districts running platforms thick with ideological rhetoric, or whether voters are seeking a change from the type of campaigns that Manatee County has grown accustomed to fostering.

If voters desire candidates who present strong foundations built upon the candidate's list of goals or hopes to accomplish for area residents, then Ballard and Rahn may find themselves competing in challenging races, though they will likely have sizable campaign war chests on their side.


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