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Attention, Democrats and Independents: Cleanup in Republican Aisle KVO


To err is human, the old axiom goes, and we Republicans proved ourselves all too human in 2020 when we put Kevin Van Ostenbridge (KVO) on the Manatee County Commission. Now, in 2024, we have the opportunity to prove ourselves insane, as well, by doing it all over again.

Van Ostenbridge currently holds the commission’s District 3 seat, meaning it was Dist-3 residents, myself included, who voted him onto the commission in 2020. Dist-3 covers Cortez, the three Anna Maria Island cities, the Palma Sola area, and the northwest part of Bradenton.

When Van Ostenbridge filed his election papers early this year, they were for his Dist-3 seat. Then, in late May, KVO announced he had terminated his Dist-3 campaign and was now running for the District 7 seat. District 7 covers all of Manatee County. What happened was that KVO and April Culbreath, a friend and ally of his, had swapped election campaigns. So, he is the District 7 candidate now, and she is running for his Dist-3 seat. Culbreath, you may have read, carries some interesting baggage herself.

The reason for the KVO-Culbreath switcheroo is Van Ostenbridge knows his chances of winning the District 3 seat this time are nil. He misrepresented himself to District 3 voters in 2020, and his conduct these past four years has so angered Dist-3 communities and residents that most District 3 voters—people of all political stripes—can hardly wait to throw the bum out.

Because District 7 has approximately five times more residents than District 3, Van Ostenbridge figures that seat is one he can win. The disdain he has earned for his District 3 blunders and plunders will be diluted considerably in District 7's much larger voter base. Also, KVO will have the financial and other support of his posse—those he controls and those who control him. Money is no object for many of them, and money yields votes (and, as we painfully know, pays for scurrilous campaign ads).

Van Ostenbridge also figures that if he wins the August 20 District 7 Republican primary, the November general election is his to lose. Unfortunately, I have to agree with him on this, and many others do as well.

In fact, I am hearing that a sizable number of you Democrats and Independents have changed their voter registrations to Republican so they, too, can vote on August 20 to end KVO's reign. Hopefully, more of you will do the same—enough more to ensure George Kruse, KVO’s Republican opponent, and the current Dist-7 seat holder, wins the Dist-7 Republican primary election.

If you too wish to vote in the August 20 Republican District 7 primary, the deadline for changing voter registrations to Republican is July 22. You can change yours easily online and then back again after August 20. As you know, in the November general election, you can vote for any candidate on the ballot, regardless of your and his or her party affiliation. The Election Office web address is: https://www.votemanatee.com/. Its helpline number is: 941-741-3823.

Also, if you wish to vote by mail in the August 20 Republican primary, the deadline for enrolling in the Election Office’s VBM directory is this August 8. This can be done online or by telephone (to remain active in the VBM directory, you must reenroll every two years).

Back in 2020, when Van Ostenbridge was running for his Commission District 3 seat, his campaign rhetoric was similar to what it is now. In short, KVO said he was a principled, free-market conservative, detests government waste, wants Manatee County to run more businesslike, and will work with fellow Commissioners to find common-sense solutions to residents’ problems. This sounded good, but what a crock of brown gumbo algae it turned out to be!

Upon joining the commission, Van Ostenbridge essentially declared himself the new sheriff in town and bullied his way into the chair position. Then, poof, Campaign KVO, the would-be principled conservative, blah, blah, blah, became Commission Chair KVO, an unabashed, spend-happy, crony capitalist. And the constituents whose problems he said he would work to solve? Well, they obviously are not us ordinary and regular tax-paying residents.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that Van Ostenbridge’s developer/builder cronies and other real estate-industry benefactors have amassed a huge 2024 campaign fund for him. Per June 25 Election Office records, it is $234,300 so far, a staggering sum for county-level elections. It is four times more than what the other two dist-7 candidates have received combined.

Ergo, one cannot help but wonder if some of Van Ostenbridge’s various misfeasances and malfeasances can be explained by the generosity of his big-money campaign benefactors. Especially things KVO has done or promoted that otherwise make no sense at all, such as the notorious Manatee Public Beach parking garage (MPB parking garage).

The MPB parking garage is the $40-to-45-million pay-to-park garage Van Ostenbridge is clamoring to erect on the sands of beautiful Manatee Public Beach in the island City of Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island. KVO justifies this parking garage on the unsupported notion that this beach is underused due to a shortage of convenient, publicly-available parking spaces that prevent off-island county residents and visitors from using and enjoying the beach on weekends and other high-use beach days.

Van Ostenbridge knows this unsupported notion is false. Knowledgeable officials and KVO’s own eyes tell him the predominant impediment to off-islanders using Manatee Public Beach on high-use beach days is the terrible, bumper-to-bumper, snail-pace-or-worse traffic they face just getting over to Anna Maria Island. Moreover, this geographically small neighborhood beach is not underused. On high-use beach days, with "just" the 425 onsite parking spaces it currently has, the beach typically is packed shoulder-to-shoulder and umbrella-to-umbrella with beachgoers.

It is no wonder District 3 residents and others are so angry about the MPB garage. It will make a terrible traffic situation substantially worse, congestion-wise and public-safety-wise; it will sully the natural, pristine beauty of this Gulf Coast beach; it will put the beach’s iconic, uber-popular, beachfront establishments out of business; it will eliminate all 425 existing fee-free on-site parking spaces; and, during its projected two-year-plus construction phase, there will be no on-site parking opportunities at all.

Although the animosity created by the MPB garage is reason enough for Van Ostenbridge to cancel his District 3 campaign and pursue fellow Republican George Kruse’s District 7 seat, KVO is also vindictive. Kruse has angered KVO by raising important questions that beg for answers before the county proceeds any further with the MPB garage. Shame on Kruse for wanting the county to run itself like a business.

In closing, I will remind you of another old axiom: Every vote counts. And in an election as close as the August 20 Commission District 7 Republican primary threatens to be, every vote is important. Van Ostenbridge has had his way with our county long enough, so let us work together to stop the hurt now. Let us District 3 residents also combine forces to ensure that Van Ostenbridge’s ally and proxy, April Culbreath, loses her August 20 Commission Dist-3 Republican primary election to her opponent, Tal Siddique.

Again, the Election OƯice web address is: https://www.votemanatee.com/ and its helpline number is: 941-741-3823.

Jerry Newbrough
Holmes Beach


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  • sandy

    I originally changed my party affiliation because of Satcher being appointed SOE. I was determined this year I would have a vote that counted, not like 2020 and 2022. As a Democrat I couldn't vote in the county primaries because of write-ins. I'm in District 4 and I did not like Rahn because of his performance on the Planning Commission but because of a write-in I couldn't vote in the primary. Truthfully, I only registered in 1975 Democrat because of my parents and where I grew up Democrats were the dominant party. I have never voted a party line which would **** off my brother. My changing a party affiliation allows me to have a vote in the primary as Republicans are the dominant party in Manatee. In the general (which for the first time in a few years the decision will be made then for some of the races) I can vote for who I want no matter the party. In 2020 nobody really knew KVO and his sound bites sounded good. The first meeting he moved to removed Cheri Coryea. We know who he is now. Hopefully enough people in District 7 have also been paying attention. He is not for the citizens of the county and he needs to be voted out. Vote Kruse, Farrington, and Hackney in the primary.

    Wednesday, June 26 Report this

  • sandy

    And District 3 do not vote for Culbreath. Her record at MCSO and the REC already shows how bad she is.

    Wednesday, June 26 Report this

  • KellyK75

    A lifelong Democrat, I changed my affiliation this election cycle. This so I can vote. Last election I could not vote for Misty Sevia because of the write in loophole. Trying to spread the word!

    Wednesday, June 26 Report this

  • Libby23

    Thank you for this, Jerry! I hope all Manatee voters see KVO for what he is and send him packing from our county commission. Perhaps that will leave him some time to cultivate his own bougainvillea!

    Sunday, June 30 Report this