A Pinella’s County Elementary School Teacher was found with a Loaded Gun and Knives in School yesterday.

The Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday of Pinella’s county arrest of Starkey Elementary School forth grade teacher Betty Jo Soto, 49.

Ex-Elementary School Teacher, Betty Jo Soto, 49, of Pinella’s County’s Starkey Elementary School. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office via Tampa Bay Times]

Soto is facing two counts of misdemeanor conceal weapons charge, after being found with a Glock 9mm pistol and two knives in a backpack. According to WFLA’s interview with Desoto on why she brought weapsons into her classroom, Soto responded by telling them to “Ask Desantis.” Revelations made on her Facebook Page was also reported to include a message indicating that she was conducting a “revolutionary act.”

Soto’s timely arrest arrives on the heels of the passing of the controversial State Bill 3070 on arming teachers, signed by Gov. DeSantis on May 8 and strongly advocated for by Pinellas County Sheriff, Bob Gualtieri.

School district would have to opt into the “Guardian’s Program” in order for teachers to receiving the training. As of this time, both Sarasota and Manatee counties have opted out, despite Manatee school board member, Scott Hopes, advocating for the district’s inclusion into the program.

What we don’t know:

  • Soto’s psychological evaluation, if any.
  • Soto’s Motive

Rep. Vern Buchanan Releases Statement on Russian Election Hacking via Twitter

On Thursday, U.S Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, released a public statement strongly condeming the Russian cyber-hacking of two florida county voter databases after attending a classified briefing via Twitter.

U.S Rep. Vern Buchanan’s public statement in response to attending an FBI briefing on Russian cyberhacking of two Florida county voting systems on Thursday. (Via Twitter)

In the release, Buchanan describes the alarming nature of the cyber security threats posed to state voting systems, stating ‘Vladmir Putin is not our friend’ and called on a bipartisan approach to deal with future election inteference.

Buchanan’s response comes after the revelations of Russian cyber interference from Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this week.

Gov. DeSantis told reporters that he was not ‘allowed to disclose’ information related to the FBI investigation due to signing a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for a private briefing. via Politico.

Buchanan’s response comes after his public statement last month on the Mueller Report, stating that ‘America needs to move on.’ (Via Zac Anderson, Sarasota-Herald-Tribune)

As of this time Thursday, none of the two counties has been identified.

Do you feel Vern Buchanan’s response is adequate? Please comment below.

Hello Again…Again.

So, it’s been a while since I’ve published here. I am derelict of my public duty.

I know it’s this. A great indicator is whenever I change my branding image.

Feelin’ more ‘beachy’. Perhaps a little more casual. Relaxed is probably a better word.

In an effort to be a bit more conversational and above all, consistent, I want to reach out today to say that I’m starting fresh yet again.

I’m hoping I can share more of me with you.

In this reboot, I’m hoping to capture local southwest Florida stories and present them in multimedia features in the upcoming months. Stay tuned.

Most importantly, I want to know what you care about, what stories you have, and what I can help shed some light on. Please reach out to me on social media for tips at @alexmbuono.

Also, I aim to publish much more frequently, hopefully on a daily basis with musings, commentary, and recaps of what’s happening locally and nationally.

To start here’s something truly…Florida. It happened right down the road from me.

Stay tuned and hope to hear from you.

Onward and upward,

-Alex

Columbia County Sheriff releases “basic ordering agreement” ICE data

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has provided via public records request the agency’s transactional data of individuals held under the “basic ordering agreement” or BOA with U.S Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE). According to their data which accounted for individuals held under the agreement’s parameters from the initial start date to June 30, only one out of a total of six individuals was transferred to ICE custody.

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The inclusion of their data adds to a total of now seven, BOA-participating Florida law enforcement agencies as reported last month. In recent developments according to Krystel Knowles of Spectrum News 13, Brevard County’s BOA was an indicator of the eventual passage of a county commission resolution banning “sanctuary cities” policies.

Brevard County commissioner John Tobia was quoted in a follow up piece by Spectrum News 13’s Matt Fernandez on the passage of the resolution, stating that the resolution ” prevents future sheriffs or politicians from failing the shining example of Sheriff Ivey and interfere and fail to cooperate with federal assets of law enforcement,” while mentioning the threat of the Trump administration to withhold federal funding as an additional justification.

According to USA Today from August 1, a federal judge from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Trump Administration’s attempt to withhold federal funding via the January 2017 executive order was unconstitutional.

For more information and updates on the BOA, click here.

Manatee County Pilots Controversial ICE Agreement as Deportation Fears Increase

 

On Jan. 17, 2018 in Largo, Florida, a press conference was held by Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies to announce a new inter-governmental law enforcement partnership with ICE called a “basic ordering agreement.”

Bradenton Rallies to Keep Families Together
Photo(s): Alex M Buono

(Bradenton, Florida)“The people that were doing these lawsuits were arguing, ‘Oh no, the state or the local jail doesn’t have jurisdiction to hold them,’” 

explained Adriana Guzman-Rouselle, an immigration attorney who has served Manatee County since 2005, on the liability exposure felt by local law enforcement agencies that inspired ICE’s “basic ordering agreement.” “The way to go around this was, ‘Okay, we’re going to hire those jails as providers of the service,” said Guzman-Rouselle.

According to Tampa Bay Online, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, also a representative of the National Sheriff’s Association, had been working with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement to develop the contract that was reportedly planned be piloted by 17 Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies.

The “basic ordering agreement” or BOA was described in a press release by ICE on January 17, “an existing procurement tool for acquiring a substantial, but presently unknown quantity of supplies or services.” The housing agreement was designed to afford liability protection for local law enforcement agencies housing “illegal criminal aliens in their jails and prisons.” ICE would then reimburse the service provider or law enforcement agency for the costs up to 48-hours of detention of an individual detainee. These actions would all take place after an individual is released from custody, having been charged with state-level criminal charges.

Also in attendance at the press conference was Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, who according to public record signed the agreement with ICE on the Jan. 19. Sheriff Wells commented to Hannah Morse of the Bradenton Herald on Jan. 18 regarding the agreement, “We’re just trying to keep our community safe, and when you have a criminal illegal alien who has been committing crimes in our community, they need to be held accountable.”

Media Controversy Surrounding the Agreement

Since the announcement of the joint law enforcement program in January, the agreement has generated media controversy. According to Guzman-Rouselle, the national media has been complicit in conflating the fears of the undocumented community in recent months. “Even if you are undocumented, if you comply with the law, you will be okay,” Guzman-Rouselle explained. “When you start doing things you are not supposed to, you encounter problems.”

According to The Gainesville Sun, Shortly after the press conference on the 17th, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell announced the next day that the County Sheriff’s office would not opt into the pilot program because “they are not in the business of immigration,” according to the Alachua sheriff’s spokesman, Art Forgey. On Jan. 24, The Southern Poverty Law Center sent public records requests to all 17 Florida counties involved with the pilot program, demanding transparency and more information on the federal program. Florida Politics’ Mitch Perry reported in February a number of Tampa Bay area faith-based organizations rejecting the merits of the agreement.

In March, the Tampa Bay times reported of local undocumented immigrants seeking retainer agreements amid fears of detention and deportation by ICE. In April, 88.5 WNMF reported of a “heated debate” between Pinellas Sheriff Gualtieri and immigrant rights activists on the implementation of the agreement as a pretext to detain undocumented individuals that were initially arrested on charges of driving without a license or identification. April also marked the beginning of the controversial “zero-tolerance policy” implemented by the Department of Justice along the southwest border.

The policy created a national fervor that was also felt here in Manatee County over the separation of families in detention facilities that included South Florida’s Homestead federal facility.

Recent History of Immigration Enforcement in Manatee County

“I haven’t seen any changes, you know, just in paper,” Guzman-Rouselle said of her recent legal experiences with the BOA in comparison to other programs like 287g and Secure Communities. According to public record documents available on online via freedom of information act requests from ina287.org, Manatee County has been actively participating in joint partnerships with ICE since signing a “memorandum of agreement” or “MOA” in July 2008.

In Dec. 2006, former Manatee County Sheriff Charles B. Wells, father of current Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, sent a written request to ICE to participate in the 287g program in order to train corrections officers in response to what Wells claimed was a large population of undocumented aliens who, “end up in our jails for everything from traffic-related crimes to homicide.” Charlie Wells successor, former Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube signed the agreement in Jun. 2008, only to request a withdrawal from the 287g Program in Sept. 2009.

Steube cited changes ICE made to the MOA requiring law enforcement agencies to provide certified interpreters that were, “cost prohibitive under MCSO’s current budget.” The hiatus was brief, as the Sheriff’s Office joined the Secure Communities program in Oct. 2009 until the Obama administration’s sun-setting of the program in November 2014. The Trump administration reactivated the program via executive order in Jan. 2017.  The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is currently not participating in the program.

[infogram id=”manatee-county-basic-ordering-agreement-detainee-breakdown-1h8n6meolgl92xo?live”]

Breaking Down the BOA’s implementation in Manatee

According to the Booking Manual procedures provided by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) Detainers and Notifications” was implemented on Mar. 8 2018, defining the department’s role as a “service provider to the DHS ICE pursuant to the BOA and authorized by federal law to hold alien detainees when all requirements for detention are met.”

“The narrow service we provide to ICE is detention for 48 hours after release from custody on local criminal charges, and that is only done when proper documentation is submitted by ICE for detention of a particular subject,” according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office General Counsel, Eric Werbeck. “ICE then has 48 hours to pick the subject up from our custody. If they don’t arrive within that time period, the subject is released. All of the subjects being detained will have been arrested for state criminal charges,” Werbeck said.

Since the agreement’s implementation in March, the Sheriff’s Office has held 32 individuals as of June, 14, according to a public record. Of the 32 individuals detained for the maximum of 48-hour period, 25 have been transferred to ICE custody. The criminal charges of detainees that were transferred to ICE ranged from battery and domestic violence, DUI, attempted murder and controlled substance. The individuals released from the detention ranged from unanswered court summonses, driving without a license, or probation violations.

Elizabeth M. Nicholson, ICE Community Relations Officer for Central and Northern Florida, stated that the local field office does not have an accounting of individual detainers at the county level, but pointed to 2017 fiscal year removal statistics for Florida. According to the ICE Fiscal Year data for Florida from 2016-2017, there was a 14-percent increase in removals.

Peter Lombardo, a local criminal defense attorney located in Bradenton who has had clients from the undocumented community, believes that the overall majority of undocumented criminal defendants do not get deported or jailed in Manatee County. “We’ll go to court and its usually misdemeanors, and we’ll go in, they’ll plead guilty, they’ll either get a fine or probation or whatever, and they just walk out the courtroom with me,” Lombardo said.

“I definitely believe that what people have to understand, sometimes, it’s not like ICE is looking for them,” Guzman-Rouselle said. Rouselle explained further that she believes that substance abuse in the undocumented community invites attention from authorities. A study titled, “Undocumented Immigration, Drug Problems, and Driving Under the Influence in the United States, 1990-2014” released in August of 2017 by the American Public Health Association concluded that there was “no significant relationship between increased undocumented immigration and DUI deaths.”

The Trump Administration and Interior Immigration Enforcement

In 2015, the New York Times reported from the campaign trail that Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric was scolded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as “extraordinarily ugly.” In April 2017, The American Bar Journal hosted a legal panel in Miami that emphasized the Trump administration’s focus on criminal immigration enforcement.

Ariel Ruiz Soto, an Associate Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute who co-authored a May 2018 MPI report titled, “Revving Up the Deportation Machinery: Enforcement under Trump and the Pushback,” believes that the creation of federal BOA’s by the Department of Homeland Security and ICE are meant to incentivize participation of local law enforcement agencies who are concerned about prohibitive costs and legal blowback.

“Rather than incentivizing new participation in immigration enforcement, BOA’s have facilitated access to local law enforcement agencies which had considered cooperating more closely with ICE but had common concerns regarding the cost and liability of holding an immigrant beyond the time they were charged to serve for their criminal convictions,” Soto said.

“The practices of the current administration, however, can and must also be traced to the crime politics of liberal Democrats that shifted the discourse on unauthorized migration,” writes Patricia Macia-Rojas in a 2018 article featured in the Journal of Migration and Huma Security. Amanda Frost wrote in a Nov. 2017 article in the Iowa Law Review, that the legacy of the Obama administration’s removal or forbearance model of immigration enforcement and lack of congressional response to immigration enforcement, should prompt alternative enforcement strategies in the future.

According to Guzman-Rouselle, an urgent problem facing Manatee’s undocumented community is being able to parse fact from fiction by finding legitimate sources of legal help for friends and family. “Mostly what I have seen is notary fraud, telling people things, ‘Oh no, let’s apply for asylum, let’s apply for this or let’s apply for that’,” Guzman-Rouselle said. “They don’t understand the consequences of doing one of those applications, that eventually, they are going to put you in front of an immigration judge when you didn’t have to be there.”

For more information on the Manatee County Basic Ordering Agreement via the National Sheriff’s Association, click here.

Click here for ACLU’s fact sheet on the Basic Ordering Agreement.

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ICE’s 287(g) Program is not decreasing crime in North Carolina, According to New Cato Institute Study

On Wednesday, Alexander Nowrasteh, an Immigration Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute, a D.C public policy think-tank, tweeted out the abstract of a new Cato Working Paper analyzing the two-year rollout of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) program in the state of North Carolina. The paper was co-authored with Cato research associate Andrew Forrester, titled, “Do Immigration Enforcement Programs Reduce Crime? Evidence from the 287 (g) Program in North Carolina,”  and specifically focuses on the program’s impact on local crime and police clearance rates across the counties participating in the program.

Nowrasteh summarized their results in his Wednesday tweet.

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(Alex Nowrasteh via Twitter)

Nowrasteh’s findings on the 287 (g) program counter Trump administration claims of a correlation between undocumented immigration and criminal activity. According to Washington Post on April 2, the administration is planning to implement a deportation quota system for federal immigration judges that link to their performance reviews. President Trump also tweeted on April 4 accusing U.S Democrats of upholding Obama Era border policies to allow for unchecked illegal immigration that would lead to an uptick in crime. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act added section 287 (g) to the act, where ICE and local law enforcement could enter into Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), enabling ICE to designated local officers to perform immigration enforcement functions. The administration expanded the ICE program via executive order in January of 2017.

“President Trump’s reactivation of 287(g) task force agreements has prompted us to evaluate how this program has affected crime rates and police clearance rates in the past,” writes Nowrasteh and Forrester in their conclusion of the Cato Working Paper. “We find no statistically significant elasticity between immigrants deported through the 287(g) program and the index crime rates under multiple specifications. Similarly, we find no significant elasticity between crime clearance rates and 287(g) deportations. Combined, these results demonstrate that the 287(g) program did not reduce crime in North Carolina,” they concluded.

Nowrasteh tenure as an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity started in 2012, after serving as a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another Libertarian D.C public policy organization based in Washington D.C. Earning his Masters of Science degree in Economic History at The London School of Economics and Political Science in 2011, ABC news cited Nowrasteh as one of the top 20 immigration experts to follow on Twitter in 2013. Nowrasteh has been active on various social media platforms promoting his policy research on immigration, with titles ranging from “Immigrants Did Not Take Your Job,” “Obama Administration Adopts De Facto Dream Act,” and “Trump’s Deplorable Travel Ban.”

 

nowrasteh-social-media
(Created by Alexander Michael Buono via Infogram)

 
Nowrasteh’s research arrives in the wake of a public debate last month between law enforcement officials in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina,  on the merits of the program current implementation in the county. Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael stated in a March 13 Charlotte Observer article that, “A person will never encounter that 287(g) program unless they get arrested for breaking the law.” Countering the Sheriff’s assertion was Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, where Putney stated to the Charlotte Observer on March 26 that the program would be a “good” tool for targeting violent felons and gang members but doubted the program’s overall effectiveness. According to Nowrasteh and Forrester’s findings in their research, Mecklenburg County had the highest recorded number of removals by 287(g) in the available ten-year data set.

According to Kristin Bialik of Pew research in a February 15 article, 2017 ICE fiscal data revealed that 74 percent of immigrant arrestees had prior convictions, a 13 percent increase from last measurements taken in 2009. Bialik was quick to point out that despite this increase of immigrants with prior convictions from 2016 to 2017, the overall arrest increase is attributable to arrestees without priors. Senior Immigration Policy Analyst Nicole Prchal Svajlenka of the Center for American Progress concludes in her March 20 CFAP article that with the elimination of prosecutorial discretion by Trump administration policies, ICE has arrested far more people without criminal convictions while emboldening local law enforcement officials to take part in the federal government’s deportation procedures.

Nowrasteh took to Twitter on Saturday in a tweet that appeared to echo his paper’s conclusion about the perceptions of criminality in the U.S.

“More evidence that fear of crime is influenced by social entertainment or news rather than perceived local danger,” Nowrasteh wrote, citing criminaljusticedegreehub.com data.

For more information on Nowrasteh and his work at the Cato Institute, click here.

The Intercept’s Viral Immigration Article is Retracted During Tense Week for Undocumented Immigrants

On Monday March 26th, The Intercept posted an article written by reporter Lee Fang, with the headline that implicated that ICE was using private Facebook Data to find and track a criminal suspect that was an unauthorized immigrant, via a public records request filed by The Intercept.

In both asserting that the suspect was an undocumented immigrant and that the ICE officials were using private Facebook data, turned out to be false. The revelation prompted the following retractions to be release by The Intercept on Monday, with the addition of an official statement given by Facebook denying the claims made in the article:

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(Retractions via The Intercept on March 26, 2018)

The first release of the article went viral on social media on Monday. The article’s release coincided with another wave of rising tension within immigrant communities across the country this week, as Vox reported the announcement by the US Census Bureau that the 2020 census will ask households which members of the family are US citizens and the Trump administration’s order to end automatic release from detention for undocumented pregnant women, as reported in the Washington Post.

The Intercept’s D.C Bureau Chief, Ryan Grim took responsibility for the error on Twitter, where founders Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, each separately tweeted out in defense of Fang’s integrity after the initial backlash Fang received on Twitter.

In the first release of the article written by Intercept Journalist Lee Fang, it appeared that Fang asserted that internal ICE emails showed that in February and March of 2017, ICE agents were coordinating via email to send a “Facebook Business Record” with a local detective from Las Cruces, New Mexico. According to the article, the agents aggregated the data through a “Backend log” on Facebook, where the subjects last point of accessing his account and IP address revealing the subject’s phone number and location of each log in. The email correspondence revealed in the article also alluded to an employee of Palantir Data Analytics potentially aiding in the retrieval of the data, as the company owned by venture capitalist Peter Thiel,  has been in contract with ICE since 2014 according to the Intercept. Thiel also serves on Facebook’s board of directors.

The Social Media Timeline of Lee’s Article

(Created by Alexander Michael Buono via Timetoast)

The New York Times’ Zyenep tufeki tweeted that “motivated reasoning” led to the retracted headline’s claim that it was undocumented immigrant, where Vox’s Dara Lind responded in a series of tweets that the “framing” of Fang’s article implied heavily that ICE’s immigration division used this data. According to Lind, it was a joint federal and local criminal investigation between Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), another agency within ICE, that is unrelated to immigration enforcement.

According to Pew Research Poll from January, news organizations account for 75 percent of tweets related to immigration on Twitter.

Lee Fang returned to Twitter on March 27 to respond to critics on social media, and gave his take on the course of events while on still on vacation.

“I was out of cell phone service for most of the day yesterday, in a different time zone, and had no idea the piece had been radically changed with information I did not include in my submitted draft and pubbed under my name until many hours after it was up. I was blindsided,” Fang wrote on Twitter.

To read more on the article, click here.

A Local Manatee Dreamer Looks Forward to a Future in Politics Despite the Uncertain Future of DACA

Oscar J. Portillo-Meza is a local DACA recipient who has dreams of becoming a U.S Secretary of State one day, that is all contingent of course, if he can stay in the country he has called home for the last ten years.

A resident of Bradenton and Bayshore High School Senior while splitting time taking courses at the University of South Florida, Portillo-Meza is an ambitious Florida teenager who immigrant from Honduras with his parents at the age of 7. Portillo-Meza has volunteered with several local organizations such as Unidos Now, The Boxser Diversity Initiative, and the Florida Democratic Party. In recognition for his philanthropic efforts, he was recently awarded the Young Spirit Award by the Manatee Community Foundation as reported in the Bradenton Herald last Tuesday.

In deciding to reveal his undocumented status and become a public advocate for the cause, Portillo Meza wants to prove that the young DACA recipients in America stand for positive change in their local communities. I’m not afraid of anything, I think I could do wonderful things anywhere,” said Portillo-Meza. “It doesn’t matter if there’s some crazy people who wants to like say yeah ‘ I’m gonna call ICE’, yeah okay,” he added.

According to Pew research polls from September 2017, most DACA recipients are 25 years old and younger.

James A. McBain, a local Bradenton Immigration Attorney of Immigration Law Services of Bradenton, says Dreamers like Portillo-Meza who can prove good moral character have greater pressure to adhere to the law and less legal recourse than average American citizens if they slip up.

“You don’t have to prove it, neither do I,” McBain said. “A small crime isn’t going to affect you guys, but they do affect those kids,” he added.

 Domain age checker

For more information on Portillo-Meza, click here.

Manatee’s Coleman is a Professor, Political Scientist, and First Time Candidate

Liv Coleman hopes that Manatee County will send her to Tallahassee to unseat Republican incumbent Joe Gruters  as a first time Democratic Candidate for the District 73 seat in the Florida State House of Representatives. Coleman, 38, received a strong introduction to voters from Manatee County Democratic Party Sheryl Wilson at a local workshop last month and has been a resident of Bradenton since 2015. Coleman believes that in addition to her being a political scientist and educator, listening is the key strength for her as a candidate.

“I think we’ve seen politicians recently who don’t necessarily hold town halls, who may or may not be in good contact with their constituents,” Coleman said. “I hope to reach out to as many people as possible,” she added.

Liv Coleman

For more information on Liv Coleman’s candidacy, click here.

Manatee Democrats Hold Saturday Workshop to “Build on the Blue Wave”

On Saturday morning, the Democratic Party of Manatee County held a training event for prospective volunteers in advance of the 2018 midterms at IMG Academy Golf Club in Bradenton. The local party is hoping to build on the momentum of last week’s special election win by Sarasota Democratic Challenger Margaret Good, as reported in the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Good’s win was amplified by national media, as Saturday’s workshop in Manatee called on volunteers to help the party “Build the Blue Wave,” in advance of November’s midterm elections.

On Saturday morning, the Democratic Party of Manatee County held a training event for prospective volunteers in advance of the 2018 midterms at IMG Academy Golf Club in Bradenton. The local party is hoping to build on the momentum of last week’s special election win by Sarasota Democratic Challenger Margaret Good, as reported in the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Good’s win attracted national media attention, as Saturday’s workshop in Manatee called on prospective volunteers to help the party “Build the Blue Wave” in advance of November’s midterm elections. The all-day event was MC’d by Manatee Democratic Party Chair, Sheryl Wilson, who shepherded the day’s events of fundraising and strategy sessions amongst district and precinct members, in addition to introducing up and coming Democratic candidates.

“I don’t want to make apologies for the fact that this is a working meeting,” said Wilson to attendees on Saturday. “If we do our job, so they can do theirs and stand for these beliefs we all hold,” Wilson added.

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Manatee Democratic Party Chair, Sheryl Wilson (above) introducing democratic challengers for 2018. (Photo: Alexander Michael Buono)

According to New York Magazine’s The Cut, 2018 is shaping up to be a banner year for women running for elective office.  One first-time candidate in Manatee County is Liv Coleman, an associate professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Tampa. Coleman, a Minnesota native, is running against GOP incumbent Rep. Joe Gruters for the District 73 house seat and cautioned against the rise of the ‘alt-right’ on the Gulf Coast.

“We have some people who are willing to cut democratic corners and who have embraced an alternative form of nationalism,” said Coleman in a video message to attendees on Saturday.

The Republican party now holds a majority of those elected to office in Manatee, as GOP congressional incumbent Vern Buchanan has held onto his seat in the U.S House of Representatives, since 2007. To Buchanan’s 2018 Democratic challenger David Shapiro, who stopped by the event on Saturday, female political engagement is essential in this year’s election.

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Democratic U.S congressional candidate David Shapiro gave a speech at the workshop on Saturday. (Photo: Alexander Michael Buono)

“They are the one’s making the difference in voter turnout,” said Shapiro in an interview on Saturday. “We’ve seen it all over the country, and we’ve just recently seen it with Margaret Good,” Shapiro added.

For more information on the activities of the Manatee County Democratic Party, Click here.

For more information on the Sarasota/Manatee Democratic Black Caucus, click here.