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You Don't Put Silk on a Sow


This week, rumors swirled that a certain developer and his political henchman were in Tallahassee lobbying the governor to appoint Manatee County Commissioner James Satcher as Supervisor of Elections when Mike Bennett retires next month.

By Thursday, those rumors were all but confirmed when the shady propaganda outlet that calls itself “Real Manatee County Conservatives” attacked Bennett and suggested that Satcher was interested in the job. In a blog post titled “Election Security Starts at Home,” the group implied that Bennett, a Republican who formerly represented Manatee County in the Florida Senate, was a RINO and not to be trusted with something as important as the “integrity of Manatee County’s elections.”

Bennett, who was up for reelection this year, surprised everyone when he recently announced that he would retire effective March 1. In his resignation letter, the SOE strongly recommended that Governor Ron DeSantis appoint Scott Farrington, his chief of staff, as his replacement.

Farrington, whom Bennett has consistently credited as playing the most crucial role in an SOE office that has been praised for conducting safe and secure elections with broad access for voters, has served at Bennett’s side for more than 11 years and had previously been a top deputy in Sarasota’s SOE office. He has already filed to run for the seat.

The Bradenton Times has previously reported on “Real Manatee County Conservatives,” an astroturf group tied to political operative Jennings Lawton DePriest. DePriest is an associate of political consultant Anthony Pedicini, who regularly handles candidates backed by his close friend, developer Carlos Beruff. Pedicini currently serves six of the seven members of the Manatee County Commission and regularly communicates on policy matters with both commissioners and the administration.

Beruff did not seem very interested in Satcher when he filed to run for the District 1 seat in 2020. However, the developer did seem quite interested in ousting Republican incumbent Priscilla Trace, who clearly angered the political kingpin when she would not vote to get rid of former county administrator Ed Hunzeker, did not support the most audacious elements of his Aqua by the Bay development, and then voted to purchase the Musgrave property.

LLCs associated with the developer gave money to PACs that attacked Trace, and the developer got behind the self-proclaimed pastor after he managed to upset her in the Republican primary. However, sources say that both Beruff’s lack of enthusiasm and Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge’s refusal to forgive Satcher for joining a coup that nearly ousted the bougainvillea thief as chair are the chief reasons why the developer would like to stash the Georgia native elsewhere in order to run a different candidate in a race that will feature both a primary and general election opponent (Carol Felts and Jen Hamey, respectively).

While the development cabal may not worry about having a dolt like Satcher manning the SOE position, there are very good reasons why the people of Manatee County should. The fact that Satcher has exactly zero qualifications for the office is only one reason why his appointment would surely prove disastrous. Don't get me wrong. It is not impossible for an intelligent, humble, and hard-working person to find success in a field for which they have no relevant experience whatsoever. Unfortunately, however, Satcher is none of those things.

To put it kindly, Satcher has never presented himself as a man of great intellect. To put it less kindly, he’s dumber than a bag of hair. He has shown zero intellectual curiosity as a commissioner and routinely demonstrates his lack of understanding in all realms of public administration despite having served more than three years in the seat. It is also kind of obvious that he takes his marching orders from his bosses, and I don't mean the people of Manatee County. As the commissioner himself once said from the dais, "We're kind of on a string up here."

Yes, James, you are, and we know who is pulling those strings.

Regarding being a hard worker, there is nothing about Satcher that causes people to mistake him for a high-energy individual ready to roll up his sleeves and burn the midnight oil. In fact, his resume is thinner than the paper it is written on. His compensation as a county commissioner is roughly three to four times what he made before being elected, according to financial filings, and, in terms of humility, he thought so much of himself that, prior to running for the seat, this goldbricking carpet bagger actually sought to challenge Vern Buchanan for the Republican nomination to run for Congress! And for the sake of those of you with socially conservative leanings,  I won't even get into the whole strip club evangelist thing.

The Supervisor of Elections is a serious position for serious people with serious qualifications and a keen eye for detail. When Satcher was elected county commissioner, he bounced a $10 personal check to the Florida Department of State for his certification fee! Months later, the department was still trying to collect the fee plus a $15 check return fee, according to emails obtained by the Herald Tribune. Those are the sorts of “misunderstandings” the county cannot afford in a constitutional officer, particularly one entrusted with safeguarding democracy.

Perhaps most disturbingly, Satcher has consistently used his platform as a commissioner not to address real issues facing the citizens of Manatee County, but to drone on about culture war nonsense that has nothing to do with the board's work. From his toothless abortion sanctuary nonsense to his emasculating fawnings about Gov. DeSantis and former President Trump, there is little to suggest that Satcher has the chops to avoid running Bennett’s well-oiled operation into the ground and much to suggest that he would be chomping at the bit, were 45 to call him up and ask that he “find the votes.”

Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary will take place just 17 days after Bennett’s replacement is named, the state and local primaries just a few months later, and we have a presidential election in November. Putting the man referred to as the county commission’s other useful idiot in charge would make about as much sense as hiring the crew chief at McDonald’s to be the hospital’s new chief of surgery.

Bennett has worked hard to keep the talented team he inherited from legendary SOE Bob Sweat in place and has taken the time to implement a succession plan that would see his highly qualified chief of staff take over where he left off. If the governor really cared about election security, he would take Bennett’s advice and, for once, allow someone other than a local developer who writes a lot of campaign checks to decide who gets appointed to a vacancy.

If DeSantis instead bends to Beruff’s will and puts politics before duty, Farrington will surely walk, and much of Bennett’s crack staff will likely follow. That must not be allowed to happen. Contact Governor DeSantis and tell him Manatee County cannot afford patronage appointments in one of our most critical offices.

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.


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  • David Daniels

    Another classic column. So funny, and so true. We are lucky to have such talented writing shining a light on Manatee county governing.

    Sunday, February 4 Report this

  • kmskepton

    "...dumber than a bag of hair," LOL!! On a serious note,, please god, NO!!!

    Sunday, February 4 Report this

  • rayfusco68

    Yes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. You can turn the SOE into a sty by appointing a sow to run it. Will the corruption ever end. You get the government you vote for and if you don't vote for change don't complain about what you get.

    Sunday, February 4 Report this

  • Cat L

    Ah, but I have no faith in the governor since he's absolutely in bed with the group who think winning at all costs, to the exclusion of everyone else, is somehow patriotic.

    Sunday, February 4 Report this

  • Charles

    Cultivate candidates for offices, quickly concentrate support on one candidate in each race who is not corrupt or likely to be a pawn, support them financially, actively help in their campaigns — honest candidates are the responsibility of the community. They appear when the possibility of sucess exists, but not when voters fail to support such candidates. Waiting for honest candidates to appear will be too late. The community must cultivate honest candidates and match the efforts made the cabal to "win" elections with pawns. Yes, Ray, the voters get what they deserve when they fail to cultivate, support, and elect honest candidates.

    Sunday, February 4 Report this

  • UteKegel

    I don't know anymore what we can do. Writing to the governor will just confirm to him that, by putting Satcher in the office, he will be able to control elections in Manatee County -- exactly what he wants. They don't even bother pretending anymore because they know they will get away with it.

    Sunday, February 4 Report this

  • Debann

    Satcher doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground..I can Imagine all the uncounted votes. OOPS MY BAD.. WHATEVER WAS I THINKING. oh yeah I remember now...Manatee county the MOST CORRUPT COUNTY IN FLORIDA.. GET RID OF THIS BOUGHT AND PAID FOR COMMISSION

    Sunday, February 4 Report this

  • rjckeuka4

    Spot on description of JS Superstar (sic)! Oh, but will it get broader circulation? The Times? The Herald? Elsewhere? The word has got to be spread beyond the TBT.

    Sunday, February 4 Report this


    To those commenting on this article, don’t just comment here, click the “Contact” link Mitch provided and tell the governor to select Scott Farrington.

    Monday, February 5 Report this

  • JayCassidy

    Great reporting! Just joined your newspaper today. Upping my support in July when The Bradenton Herald subscription ends. Appreciate the education in local politics you're giving me! Keep fighting, as Lee Camp says!

    Jay Cassidy

    Monday, February 5 Report this

  • tjet62

    So spot on, love you Dennis. More often than not I'm shaking my head every time JS opens his mouth.

    Thursday, February 8 Report this