Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody announced he’s running for the District 2 seat on the Sarasota County Commission. That pits him against incumbent County Commissioner Christian Ziegler.
“We need to return power back to our residents and move us toward a more sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous Sarasota.” Brody said. “Leadership on local issues most important to the residents of the city of Sarasota, its surrounding neighborhoods, and Siesta Key is needed now more than ever on the County Commission.”
The move comes as Democrats face their greatest opportunity to win a space at the county dais in decades. A new redistricting map just put in place by the county makes District 2 a Democratic seat, and this election marks the first time single-member voting will be in place to elect a District 2 Commissioner.
That is, unless the voters repeal single-member districts in a vote this March. The Republican Party of Sarasota will campaign in favor of a referendum that would do just that and reverse a switch to single-member voting passed in 2018.
Ziegler opposed the switch to single member districts. Ironically, he was the lone vote two years ago against beginning a controversial redistricting process done in 2019 in response to the switch in election methods. That was done ahead of the U.S. Census and resulted in a map that changed District 1 from Democratic-leaning to a safe Republican district.
As a result, District 2 absorbed several Democratic leaning communities, including the predominantly Black Newtown neighborhood in North Sarasota. When the Commission went through redistricting again after the Census, District 2 remained a blue seat.
Brody, long-rumored to be considering a run, enters the race with the backing of several prominent leaders, including School Board members Shirley Brown, Tom Edwards and Jane Goodwin. All are registered Democrats, and serve on the nonpartisan School Board with Ziegler’s wife, Bridget Ziegler, one of the most prominent Republican school board members in Florida.
Ziegler also holds significant sway in Republican circles. He’s the vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida. Republican Party of Florida Chair Joe Gruters also hails from Sarasota and has long worked closely with both Zieglers.
Christian Ziegler is also the founder of Microtargeted Media, a political marketing firm doing work for Republican campaigns nationally.
Brody, who serves as a Florida Democratic Party state committeeman, previously worked in the State Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor. He first won election to his at-large seat on the Sarasota City Commission in 2017. Of note, his tenure there has been controversial, especially regarding high-profile friction with staff during former City Manager Tom Barwin’s tenure. He also reportedly got into a tense shouting match last year with current City Manager Marlon Brown over a city video on vaccinations that did not feature the then-Mayor. That episode nearly prompted an investigation.
Brody was the impetus of a Department of Transportation effort early during the COVID-19 pandemic to light state bridges, including the John Ringling Causeway, in red, white and blue to honor first responders. He also recently spoke at a Florida TaxWatch event held in the city.