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Gallen, Holmes and Smith Face Off in METV Debate


BRADENTON – At the Manatee Educational Television debate Friday afternoon, sitting District 2 Commissioner Michael Gallen defended his first term as accomplished but still in process. His participating opponents Charles Smith and Corie Holmes said he hasn't accomplished enough, and that they can do better.

METV presented Friday's District 2 election debate, moderated by Bradenton Herald's Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille, giving three of the four candidates an opportunity to present their platform.

Wille first asked each for an opening statement. Holmes kicked off the forum saying he would bring diversity and the county forward to a safer, more accountable position. Holmes said he would bring his investigative skills to the Dais.  

Smith said he wanted to bring his accomplishments as a sitting City of Palmetto Commissioner to the unincorporated areas of the district. Smith referenced Palmetto's successful CRA and boasting the only "Green" street in Manatee County. He mentioned wanting to fund and improve low-income neighborhoods, saying "the whole county would benefit." 

Gallen spoke to the dropping of unemployment and crime during his term, and his fight to make school yards open to off-hour recreation. Gallen also mentioned the district's success in bringing Feld Entertainment and Air Products – and the jobs they have created – as other successes. 

Wille asked for their position on the hot-button issue of "indigent care." 

Gallen said he didn't support county at the current level and going to the ER for services. He cited Manatee Rural Health as one of the county's resources and inviting a independent representative to oversee a program. Gallen added he was against the half-cent tax referendum and the costly special election where it failed.

Holmes replied, saying Gallen was the one who "made the motion to approve it," and that it was very costly to the county. (Gallen originally voted for the referendum at a March 12 meeting amid stated concerns about the referendum being too early and ultimately turned against the idea at a later meeting.)

Smith said, "We need to educate the people, not force feed them." He added that the county government has a trust issue and that he "will lead to bring the trust back." He later said, "I will protect the environment … empowering District 2 is my goal."

Willie asked if any of the candidates supported a half-cent tax for roads and infrastructure.

Holmes said it would have to be put to a vote in a general election so as to not cost the public additional expense.

Gallen said, "There would have to be a plan in place," and that it would have to improve existing neighborhoods.

Smith replied by saying the Housing Authority should be involved in such a decision, and businesses not yet built should not have a say.

Closing statements reflected much of what each opened the forum with.

Write-in candidate Troy Thomas didn't show. TBT contacted Mr. Thomas, asking if there was anything he would like to say – to which he replied, "Nothing as of now."

Democrats will face off in the primary election Aug. 26.

Click here to watch the debate

Left to right: Michael Gallen, Corie Holmes, and Charles Smith


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