Kevin Cooper reports record haul for Sarasota Hospital Board race

He has already more raised than all 2022 Hospital Board winners put together.

Kevin Cooper has raised a record amount in outside contributions to run for Sarasota County Public Hospital Board.

The Venice Republican announced he raised $16,128 in the first quarter of 2024. That’s about four times more than all five winners of the 2022 Hospital Board races raised combined.

“The support our campaign has received in such a short period of time is truly humbling,” Cooper said. “It just goes to show how important access to quality medical care is to the residents of this community. Sarasota County is the best place in Florida, and the country, to live and raise a family and I will continue to do everything I can to preserve that for current and future generations.”

The money comes from 46 individual donors. The funding already makes Cooper one of the most successful candidates ever in terms of fundraising for a hospital seat. In 2020, Hospital Board member Britt Riner spent more than $15,000 over the course of an entire campaign to win her Seat 3 post.

Cooper immediately attracted attention with his entry into the Hospital Board race in January. He’s running for Seat 2 on the Board.

The Vice President of Communications and Strategic Initiatives for Mote Marine Laboratory and a former President and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, the business leader quickly drew wide attention to a normally low-profile race.

Notably, he did so after the 2022 elections became unusually contentious in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, “medical freedom” activists connected to Michael Flynn made a play for Board seats.

Similarly, a slate of candidates led by Mary Flynn O’Neill, Flynn’s sister, announced last week that they would run for positions on the Board.

That slate did not include Dr. Stephen Guffanti, who Cooper faces in a Republican Primary. But Guffanti has criticized the hospital’s COVID-19 protocols in the past, according to reporting in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and WVTF.

Cooper has been widely seen as a respected voice in the Sarasota business and political community. Both his children were born at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. He also served in Iraq with the Ohio Army National Guard, when he was deployed to Al-Taqaddum Air Base in Iraq’s Al Anbar province to serve as a convoy security operator during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He has also volunteered with the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, Sarasota County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and Hope City Church Dream Team.

Guffanti filed on March 28 and has not filed any fundraising reports. Democrat John Lutz raised $100 in the first quarter.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Allison

    April 4, 2024 at 1:09 pm

    The big question is, will he, too, challenge this hospitals exceptional handling of the pandemic? Raising that much money in Uber-conservative Sarasota can only tell me that answer is yes. If so, it’s a no for me.

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