Bradenton Election: Bower, Van Ostenbridge Face Off In District 3

Tiffany Razzano

MANATEE COUNTY, FL — In the 2020 election, Manatee County voters will choose the winner of the Manatee Board of County Commissioners District 3 race. Independent Matthew J. Bower and Republican Kevin Van Ostenbridge are vying for the role.

How to vote

As the Nov. 3 election approaches, Manatee County voters can submit their ballots at early voting locations, at drop-off boxes and by mail. They can also vote at their local voting precinct on Election Day.

If voting in person, either early or on Nov. 3, voters must bring a current and valid ID with their name, photo and signature. Find a full list of acceptable IDs here.

Vote-by-mail ballots may be returned using the U.S. Postal Service. The return postage for a vote-by-mail ballot is two Forever stamps or $.70. They must be received by 7 p.m. Election Day. Additionally, they can be dropped off at any early voting location. Find a list of early voting locations here. The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot has passed.

If you choose to vote in person on Nov. 3, you can look up your voting precinct online here. For your vote to count, you must vote in the precinct in which you reside. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Meet the candidates

Bradenton Patch recently sent out questionnaires to learn more about who these candidates are and where they stand on local issues. Though neither responded to the request, we’ve compiled some information about them.

Independent Matthew J. Bower is a lifelong resident of West Bradenton. According to the Bradenton Times, though he’s a registered Republican, he’s running with no party affiliation in the District 3 race. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, he is a U.S. Army veteran and a graduate of Saint Leo University.

The Times reports that he is a proponent for smart, sustainable growth in Manatee County. As a member of the county’s Planning Commission, he’s also earned a reputation for asking developers difficult questions. This ultimately led to him being asked to leave the position. And he prides himself on not accepting any donations from developers during this campaign.

"How people run for office and who they accept contributions from sets the tone for the way they will serve and, more importantly, who they will serve," says Bower. As such, he has decided to not accept any campaign donations from developers.

"Developers gather together and decide who will be serving their interest, then proceed to raise excessive donations, including funding those political PACs," Bower told the times. "They often use several companies they control using a loophole to exceed individual campaign contributions. To them, it's a business decision, but, to the rest of us, it comes at the expense of what we value."

Other concerns include traffic issues, lowering taxes, improving infrastructure, and protecting the wetlands, estuaries and coastal waters.

Bower’s campaign Facebook page can be found online here.

According to his campaign website, Republican Kevin Van Ostenbridge is “a lifelong resident, business man and community advocate” in Manatee County. He’s in the real estate industry, working for Boyd Realty. He’s also the founder of a Bradenton-based excursion company, Be Easy Tours.

He’s been active in numerous community organizations. According to his website, he’s a member of the Republican Executive Committee and the Manatee County Republican Club; serves on the transportation and legislative committees for the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Bradenton’s Planning Commission, Bradenton Kiwanis Club, Manatee High School football, and is a graduate of Leadership Manatee.

During his time in Manatee, Van Ostenbridge “witnessed firsthand the challenges and transformation that (the county) has faced. He believes (this is) a critical time in Manatee County’s history. (He) is running on a campaign to protect (the) community’s quality of life, safeguarding beaches and estuaries, fighting tax increases, revitalizing West Bradenton, and cultivating responsible growth; and believes that through these policies, we can keep Manatee County great.”

According to the Herald-Tribune, he’s also focused on reopening the economy and job growth as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. He’s also an opponent of unnecessary government regulations.

Learn more about Van Ostenbridge at his campaign website.

This article originally appeared on the Bradenton Patch