Manatee County Commission Chair Betsy Benac will not seek a third term.
“After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I’ve made the tough decision to withdraw my candidacy for reelection to the County Commission,” the incumbent said.
“My family is the most important thing to me, and now, more than ever, I need to focus on them. It has been an honor to serve the great people of Manatee County for the last 8 years and I am grateful for the community support that I have received along the way.”
It’s a surprising move from Benac less than two months before the qualification deadline for county office. She had raised $26,800 toward her reelection campaign this year.
She faced a primary challenge from Bradenton lawyer Paul Finer, who has raised $8,000 for a run as of the end of March.
Benac holds the District 7 at-large seat on the Commission, making her one of two members of the board elected countywide.
She first won the seat after defeating long-time Commissioner Joe McClash in 2012 in the Republican primary. At the time, she ran on a pro-business message in the wake of the Great Recession.
Of late, she has taken some criticism from conservatives upset about a countywide curfew put in place for 18 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Benac had voted in favor of instating the curfew, but this week she was part of a vote to rescind it. She and Commissioner Priscilla Whisenant Trace, who also faces reelection this year, were the only commissioners who voted into favor of putting the curfew in place and later supported lifting it.
Benac was tapped in December to chair the Commission in 2020.
The incumbent’s exit will likely spark greater interest in the race. The qualification deadline is noon, June 12.