By John Morton
Siesta Key resident Mike Cosentino, who has for years fought Sarasota County regarding issues mostly regarding land use, filed in early February his intent to run for the county’s District 2 seat on its board of county commissioners.
Said Costenino of his candidacy, “As has been clearly and repeatedly demonstrated, we have no voice in our local government. I’m running for county commission to be the people’s voice.
“Across party lines, we all want to preserve and protect our community. I’ll do exactly that. Litigating against the county has given me the knowledge and skills to use the law to protect our interests.”
As of now, he’ll face city of Sarasota commission member and fellow Sarasota native Hagen Brody in the Democratic primary in August.
The deadline to qualify for candidacy is June 17.
It’s Cosentino’s second stab at it, first running in 2018 but losing in the primary for District 4.
The two county seats up for grabs this November involve Siesta Key in terms of territory. The northern half of the Key falls within the District 2 map and the southern part belongs to District 4.
Commissioner Christian Ziegler represents District 2. The incumbent has yet to announce if he’ll run for re-election.
Commission chairman Alan Maio currently represents District 4.
Cosentino was behind two citizen-passed amendments in 2018 that prohibited the county from selling or giving away county-owned parks and another that would prevent the county from vacating any road segments or rights of way near any body of water.
The county’s vacating of part of the Key’s Beach Road was on the front burner regarding those efforts.
The public’s votes on the amendments were overturned in 2019 by a 12th Judicial Circuit judge in a ruling saying the changes are invalid and enforceable.
Cosentino’s appeals have also been shot down.
“Unfortunately, I’ve proven that our wishes, land-use laws, and votes are basically meaningless to the current commissioners. All of that will change if I’m elected,” Cosentino said. “Foremost, I’ll respect my duty to enforce the law … all we need is one honest, hard-working person to turn this thing around.
“That person is me. Let’s get together. Let’s get to work.”
With another effort at hand, Costentino said he’s better situated for a successful campaign when compared to four years ago.
“My goal was to get the charter amendments passed,” he said of 2018. “I’m told what’s needed is to be on the (Sarasota Herald-Tribune) front page, above the fold. By jumping in the race, l got the amendments on the front page, above the fold, four times in three months. The measures passed with 67% and 73%, respectively.
“But I was crushed by Wesley Beggs in the Democratic primary. Frankly, she outworked me. While I was at my desk writing legal briefs for Beach Road, she was pounding the pavement for votes.
“I’ve learned from that mistake. I believe our voters have learned, too. Al Maio, perhaps the worst public official in Sarasota’s history, was re-elected in 2018 despite his numerous controversial land-use approvals.
“Necessarily, l think our voters are paying much closer attention now. That hurts my opponents and bodes very well for me.”
The annual salary for a Sarasota County Commissioner is $88.000. They are elected to four-year terms.