Tales from the Mark Side: The Conservative Voice in Manatee County

Who’s in and who’s out in the city of Bradenton’s elections? Here’s what we know so far


By Mark Young



With a couple of months to go before the candidate qualification period ends in June, there are key races forming for Bradenton City Council.

While this is only an initial review, there is no more important race than the city’s fourth ward between incumbent Bill Sanders and challenger Kurt Landefeld.

I haven’t met Landefeld yet, but I know he’s been serving on the city’s planning commission for the past few years and most recently as chair. This would serve him well in hitting the ground running and reducing the typical learning curve time it takes for most candidates.

Unfortunately, I do know Bill Sanders and brace yourself, this isn’t a pretty story.

Sanders defeated then incumbent Bemis Smith in a shocking upset four years ago. Smith had diligently served Ward 4 for years but unfortunately paid a price for supporting the Glazier-Gates Park transformation.

It was controversial at the time, but voters failed to see the bigger picture of the eastward expansion of Riverwalk while the plans all along were to preserve the actual historical sites. Not only preserve them, but enhance them and make them more accessible to park visitors.

It was an unfortunate misconception by Ward 4 voters, and though Smith paid the political price, the real price has been paid back to the voters who put Sanders into office.

Sanders ran one of the dirtiest campaigns I have ever covered as a reporter, falsely accusing Smith of criminal actions and then lying about it after his falsehoods were uncovered.

Sanders was a newcomer to the city at the time, but his dirty tactics worked in his favor by getting him as much publicity as any one candidate could ever garner in an election cycle.

Still, voters overwhelmingly supported Sanders despite his dirty tactics, which he even admitted to at his election watch victory party. It’s on video, you don’t have to take my word for it.

So what has Sanders accomplished in his four years?

Nothing except to show just what kind of a politician he really is. Those actions include getting him banned from being able to be in any parade or festivity sponsored by the Hernando DeSoto Historical Society after roughing up a member at the Society’s Seafood Festival.

Again, it’s all on video and all you have to do is Google Bill Sanders Bradenton Herald and you’ll see a plethora of problems he has had since he first filed for office.

Now my sources tell me that Sanders is threatening the funding of the city’s police department if the BPD doesn’t publicly support his campaign for reelection.

Sanders has had it out for BPD since their investigation into claiming Smith cut his brake lines revealed Sanders was not being truthful. Sanders will say he has a mechanic’s statement that the lines were cut, but the only problem with that is that they were likely cut after the investigation revealed that his lines had rusted out.

I have no reason to believe that his threats against BPD aren’t true based on his behavior and tactics over the years.

In full disclosure, Sanders had been trying to get me fired from the Bradenton Herald for quite some time, simply because I reported the truth about his tactics.

He is argumentative, disruptive and has an anger issue that needs to be professionally addressed, in my humble opinion. He gets loud during city council meetings and makes arguments that are typically far off base from reality.

I look forward to getting to know Landefeld and where he stands, but for the sake of the city and for Ward 4, Sanders needs to be a one-term councilman. He brings nothing but trouble to the city council and is an ineffective elected official.

We’ll see what Landefeld is all about in the coming weeks and months, but your Ward 4 race is an easy decision for me and barring a surprise last minute qualification, Landefeld should be the next Ward 4 councilman.

Sanders is losing a valuable ally in Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff who has decided not to run for another term. The two have very different governing styles, but in the end became allies against then Mayor Wayne Poston and wanted to strip Poston’s oversight of the police department in his secondary role as police commissioner.

Roff’s decision, thus far, not to run for reelection puts the city in better hands with Josh Cramer as the sole candidate at this point.

Cramer, BPD assistant chief, has served this city for years and understands public service and personal sacrifice for the betterment of the community. Roff was, and is, a typical politician who had exceptional showmanship in the way he presented one face to the public and how he behaved politically when he thought no one was looking.

Roff did an exceptional job for Ward 3, don’t get me wrong. He, too, had a vindictive side, which is why it made sense for him to ally himself with Sanders at times. He accomplished a lot for his constituents, but Cramer will not only continue to be an asset for Ward 3, but also for the city as a whole and is a, what you see is what you get public servant.

The final seat up for grabs is in Ward 2 between incumbent Marianne Barneby and challenger David Levin.

Levin was initially going to run for a school board seat, but redistricting forced him out of the race so he has decided to challenge Barneby for her seat on the city council.

Levin has a legal background, which makes his one controversy stand out after he was arrested in 2016 for hacking into the Lee County Supervisor of Elections website.

From what I’ve read, Levin did so to prove just how vulnerable the election system was. Given the nature and uncertainty by voters that question whether our election system is secure, it’s hard to hold this one action against him if there was, indeed, no further intent.

The local liberal media is in full attack mode against Levin. That should tell you something, but I have not made up my mind in this race. I prefer to do my due diligence, unlike our liberal colleagues who are already trying to sway this election cycle.

Levin’s platform is fairly clear and at first glance, brings a conservative profile into play with a belief in low taxes and fiscal responsibility.

He attacks his opponent on his website by pointing out that Barneby’s husband is a land-use attorney, whose firm also has the contract to represent the city.

Levin says this a major conflict of interest, and it’s hard to disagree with that argument. However, I know Mark Barneby well and I know him to be a good man who operates on ethics first.

Mark can’t be blamed for making a living and doing it well, but at the same time, a sitting councilwoman who is married to a lawyer at the firm that represents the city is an issue that calls for more attention and explanation.

Barneby served four prior terms on the council beginning in 1998. She returned to the council after being appointed in June of 2020 to replace the seat held by Gene Brown, who resigned his seat to successfully run for mayor.

It should be noted that Barneby unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2012, which begs the question of whether the overall citizenship maintains as much confidence in her as her Ward 2 constituents.

It’s a fair question, but I certainly cannot utter a bad word about Barneby. Her devotion to public service and community service is beyond reproach. She a valued member of this community.

However, the question in this election cycle is whether Barneby is a conservative enough politician in yet another election where candidates can hide their political beliefs behind a nonpartisan curtain.

I know Mark Barneby much better than I know Marianne Barneby, but I look forward to more discussions. I also look forward to getting to know Levin and this is a race that I am far from ready to announce support for either candidate.

Again, this is only an initial review of the races ahead so stay vigilant patriots. All elections are local. You build a nation from the community out, not the other way around. If we are to rebuild a nation founded in Conservative values, it starts at home.


By Mark Young

Mark Young is a U.S. Army veteran and a seasoned journalist of 25 years. His writing and reporting has garnered dozens of state press association and press club awards in Florida, Nebraska and Wyoming for investigative reporting, opinion writing, in-depth reporting and more.

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