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

Here are the final Manatee County School Board endorsements

By Mark Young


We have definitely entered that part of the election cycle where major changes occur once qualifying ends and early voting begins.

Making predictions about the ballot ahead of time is like throwing your money away on a street corner game of three-card Monty. You’re essentially a sucker if you play, but I did warn you that substantial changes were likely before we got to this point.

There have been no bigger shake ups than within the critical school board races since we took our first peek at this election cycle weeks ago.

And please remember that the school board races will be decided during the August primaries. Unless there is a runoff or something unusual happens, these races do not go forward to the November ballot. Turnout is essential for success.

And because of the epic mistake led by former school board member Charlie Kennedy, these seats are decided within their districts alone. Kennedy’s actions ensured that Manatee County as a whole no longer has a say on who serves the district as a whole.

These actions flew under the radar and restricts the voting rights of moms and dads across the county who should have a say in how their children are impacted by elected officials they had no chance to vote in or out.

Two Conservative candidates in districts 2 and 4 have withdrawn. One of them was a clear frontrunner for my endorsement.

In District 4, Garin Hoover has inexplicably withdrawn from the race leaving a fairly weak field of candidates, in my opinion, albeit it’s not all bad news.

Incumbent Chad Coate now stands alone against Sean Conley in a head-to-head race. Conley came into the picture a little late in the game.

Coate, of course, is currently holding the seat after being appointed by the governor when Scott Hopes left his duties of mismanaging the school district to mismanage the county.

Conley, who I have not yet met this late in the game, is a Navy veteran and former substitute teacher. Generic candidate profiles on Conley indicate absolutely nothing as far as his platform is concerned and Coate has a significant financial advantage in terms of donors.

Conley has not done a good job in getting his political message out to the public, so voters should not have to guess where he stands. I cannot, in good faith, even consider Conley as a viable candidate if a campaign fails to deliver the message.

As we have previously discussed, Hoover would have received my endorsement over Coate simply because I have not seen or heard very much about Coate taking a strong Conservative stance on the school board as far as demanding more transparency and accountability.

His reputation in the community, however, is about as stellar as it comes. I have no doubt regarding Coate’s integrity, and now can be his time to shine, if he is capable of doing so.

Hoover has been mum on his decision to withdraw, which is certainly his right. The only problem I have in these types of decisions is that it leaves no time for another viable candidate to get into the race.

I know at least one person who would have considered running for the District 4 seat, but opted not to in order to stand behind Hoover’s bid.

That’s a shame.

With Hoover out of the race, the spotlight returns to Coate and one could make the argument that he had a bit of a learning curve to get through since replacing Hopes.

I have to assume, at this point, that Gov. Ron DeSantis knew what he was doing by appointing Coate in the first place.

I would like to see Coate make good on the governor’s confidence in him and start making a stronger Conservative stand against the progressive chaos infecting our schools.

I know DeSantis is on a mission to give Conservatives a chance to take back control of school boards across the state. That’s a lot of pressure for Coate to, “be the guy,” in Manatee County.

But be the guy he must, and I’m willing to give him a full-term chance to make good. His platform is solid. He just needs to be more aggressive in implementing good policies, and holding district staff accountable.

Essentially, I want to get phone calls and emails saying, “Did you hear about Coate at last night’s school board meeting?”

I believe he can do it.

For that reason, I endorse Chad Coate for Manatee County School District 4.

District 2

District 2 also saw a key withdrawal as David Levin is now out of the race. I’m not saying Levin would have received my final endorsement, but I did believe Levin was the kind of candidate who would have no problems shaking things up.

That now leaves Susan Agruso, Harold Byrd Jr., and a very strong Conservative Cindy Spray who got into the race after our early looks into this year’s election cycle.

Byrd, as a former Bradenton councilman, is not the worst candidate to be considered, but by far, not the best. Byrd is a Manatee County Commissioner Reggy Bellamy kind of democrat.

He’s a great guy. He believes his decisions are what is best for the community, but at the end of the day, they really aren’t most of the time.

In interviewing Agruso, I found her to be authentic and believe her claims that she is a fiscal Conservative even if she’s not an actual Conservative.

Opting to throw a little financial support to Andrew Gillum over DeSantis in the 2018 election gives me grave concerns.

Still, Agruso is an impressive candidate and I know she stands firmly against key progressive policies such as critical race theory. To me, Agruso would be a competent replacement for retiring Superintendent Cynthia Saunders.

I say that because I 100% believe that Agruso can separate her national politics from her duties to educate our children.

She said she would not consider replacing Saunders. She has the experience and the right frame of mind. I hope she reconsiders and applies, but I can’t support her for elected office.

If this had remained a head-to-head race between Agruso and Byrd, Agruso would have been my choice. But the entry of Spray changes everything.

Spray is not a shy Conservative. She will bring a much-needed strong Conservative voice to this school board and I believe her election will provide Coate with the confidence to be more aggressive with Conservative policies.

Coate would finally have a viable ally on the board.

For that reason, and a lot more, I endorse Cindy Spray for Manatee County School District 2.

District 5

District 5 is a no-brainer. In a three-person race between incumbent James Golden, Richard Tatem and Chantal Wilford – Tatem is the clear frontrunner.

Manatee County deserves so much better than Golden, who has been a career candidate for political office in Manatee County in various elections for years.

He finally won one and has done nothing to make the school district better, other than to serve his own family interests.

Sorry, not sorry.

Tatem is a rock solid Conservative who will no doubt do his best to bring Conservative values to such an important office in today’s age where children are at risk of progressive, anti-American indoctrination.

Tatem will not be shy about standing in the way.

Tatem has my full endorsement for Manatee County School District 5. As we have discussed before, Tatem and I part ways in the way he supported the district extending the extra tax millage.

However, his heart was in the right place in believing the district would punish the teachers if the tax had not been approved. And he has assured me, he would not support another extension.

In a beautiful world, Manatee County has an opportunity to flip this school board red, even though technically it’s a nonpartisan race.

They can call it a nonpartisan race but since the liberals have declared war on parents and families while using our schools as a political training ground, it is definitely political now.

School board elections used to not mean very much, but we see where that got us. Now, in my opinion, they are the most important elections in every cycle.

So now, my fellow Patriots, it matters and we know it. For that reason and more, stay vigilant, stay aware and stay informed.

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