A candidate for Manatee County Commission emailed supporters promising he will defy experts’ expectations. In his blast, he included a text message exchange — without permission — with a prominent campaign consultant who refused to work with his campaign.
Jason Bearden, a Republican challenging County Commissioner Carol Whitmore’s re-election, sent out a fundraising pitch with the curious subject line “They Want Me to Quit and Give up!”
“I received a message the other day from a ‘so-called expert’ stating I won’t be able to beat the incumbent — who’s been involved in Manatee County politics for over 30 years. He said that I needed to quit,” Bearden wrote. “The thing is… experts fade away!”
The expert he referenced, without naming him, was Anthony Pedicini, the Tampa-based founder of Strategic Image Management, a conservative political consulting firm. Pedicini confirms Bearden reached out to him about potentially working with his campaign, but the consultant declined to meet.
Bearden’s email includes a portion of a Dec. 1 text exchange that confirms as much. In a terse text, Pedicini states: “I know you cannot beat Carol. It’s unfortunate you can’t take advice. Please don’t message me again.”
Bearden then replied: “Oh really?! I love it let’s do it! I like that challenge!”
Pedicini says he and Bearden never discussed sharing the text publicly. He considered sharing a private message in an email blast to be poor form.
“This shows the guy is absolutely not ready to hold public office,” Pedicini told Florida Politics. “Conservatives in Manatee County deserve someone who is not going to be petty.”
Pedicini shared with Florida Politics the text from Bearden that preceded his own reply. In it, Bearden makes the case for his candidacy. “I hope we can work together,” Bearden texted. “If not I understand you have your person.”
Pedicini is coming off a highly successful cycle in Manatee County, having worked campaigns for Republican County Commissioners Vanessa Baugh, George Kruse, James Satcher and Kevin Van Ostenbridge, the latter three of whom were elected to their first terms, with Satcher defeating incumbent Priscilla Whisenant Trace in a Republican Primary.
“I helped the most conservative commission in the last two decades take the dais,” Pedicini said.
Those four County Commissioners now make up a conservative majority that has changed the county administrator and moved ahead with a controversial redistricting plan, demonstrating one of the most significant power shifts on the Commission in 20 years.
In other words, Pedicini has a reputation among conservative Primary voters Bearden needs to unseat Whitmore, who first won her seat on the board in 2006 and before that served as Holmes Beach Mayor.
For his part, Pedicini said he does want a strong Primary challenge to surface against Whitmore. But he said Bearden isn’t the guy.
“I would hope someone would challenge the 30 years of liberalism by Carol Whitmore. I pray it will happen,” Pedicini said. “But you can’t just jump into a race after moving to town for two minutes, claim you are conservative and expect to beat somebody who has been in office for 30 years.”
Pedicini isn’t working for any candidate in the race, he said, and believes it will take a woman to unseat Whitmore.
Right now, Whitmore, Bearden and Republican Carol Ann Felts have filed for the District 6 race. Whitmore has raised just over $42,000. Felts has raised just $100.
Pedicini figures it will take close to a half million dollars to unseat Whitmore in a GOP Primary, if his expertise provides any preview.
Obviously, Bearden holds more optimism about his own candidacy. The Marine veteran held a campaign kick-off fundraiser on Nov. 11 at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing and has raised $38,429 for a run. He said that gets the campaign 20% toward its goal.
“This is great! We haven’t even started yet!” Bearden wrote in his email blast. “The truth is — it’s ridiculous that it takes this much to run an effective local campaign, but I’m here and ready to put in the work for the betterment of this county!”
The email leans in on the message that experts, by default, must not know what they are talking about, and cited Donald Trump’s 2016 win for President as evidence.
Florida Politics spoke briefly with Bearden, who stressed he did not name Pedicini in any email and was uncertain how it was revealed that was who was referenced. Told that Pedicini had confirmed he in fact was the expert referenced, Bearden said he would need to “talk to my people” before further addressing the matter.
The whole episode, in Pedicini’s eyes, show the marks of someone unready for the campaign trail. “It speaks to his naïveté as a candidate,” the consultant said.
This post will be updated with further response from Bearden if it is received.