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KVO switches districts in Manatee County Commission race

Written by on Saturday, June 1, 2024

Kevin Van Ostenbridge is unpopular in the district he was elected to represent.

Staff report

The Bradenton Times

MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge announced he will switch races and seek the countywide Republican nomination for District 7 instead of District 3, for which he is the incumbent.

Van Ostenbridge, who is deeply unpopular with island voters in his district, will now challenge incumbent George Kruse in the Republican primary in a district where all Republican voters in Manatee County can participate. Democrats Aliyah Hurt and Sari Lindroos-Valimaki have also filed for the District 7 race.

“For me, it boiled down to this — Manatee County Republicans deserve a truly conservative representative who believes in the free market; who will never apologize to liberals; and who will protect and defend every God-given Constitutional right,” said Van Ostenbridge in a press release. “I can continue to represent West Bradenton and at the same time restore the promise of conservative representation to the county as a whole. George Kruse is a liberal. I am a staunch Trump conservative. George Kruse thinks government knows best. I know the people know best.”

Van Ostenbridge has been engaged in a feud with Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth since being elected in 2020. The mayor and island native refused to give Van Ostenbridge her endorsement in that election and says he’s never forgiven her for it. In his first commission meeting, Van Ostenbridge began threatening the city were they not to create more public parking. Van Ostenbridge ally Will Robinson, who represents the island and west Bradenton in the state legislature, led legislative actions allowing the county to permit its own parking garage on the island and a study of the consolidation of the island cities with the City of Bradenton.

Since first running for office, Van Ostenbridge has enjoyed strong financial support from developer Carlos Beruff and others in the industry, who have pumped money into his campaign coffers and funded PACs to attack his opponents.

A campaign for a countywide race is much more difficult to wage without big money support. Van Ostenbridge’s handlers likely think it will be easier to win via campaign cash than a small district that is largely disenchanted with the scandal-encircled commissioner who served time on criminal probation during his first term after getting caught stealing property from one of his constituents.

April Culbreath, another Van Ostenbridge ally who had already filed for the District 7 race,  switched to the District 3 race that Van Ostenbridge is vacating near simultaneously, as had also been rumored. Republican Tal Siddique has also filed and qualified for the primary in that race. Diana Shoemaker is the only Democrat who has filed in District 3.

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