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And they're off. Kind of. After months of fundraising, strategizing and positioning, the contest to join the Sarasota County Commission finally hit the public Wednesday, Feb. 26. And while the turnout at the Village Walk Republican Club meet- ing was modest, the event offered important clues about how the candidates hope to pres- ent themselves to the voting public. The field is all-Republican so far, with two can- didates in each district. City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo and past City Commission candidate Pete Theisen are running to replace outgoing County Commissioner Joe Barbetta, while Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations President Lourdes Ramirez is squaring off against Kimley-Horn and Associates executive Alan Maio to take the seat of retiring Commissioner Nora Patterson. The club asked the candidates to introduce themselves and to address three major issues: the possibility of widening Honore Avenue between Clark and Bee Ridge roads, the future of Warm Mineral Springs and turnover in the county administrator's seat. Maio spoke first, describing his develop- ment background and family life and largely Republican Sarasota County Commission candidate Alan Maio speaks to the Village Walk Republican Club Wednesday night. Photo by Cooper Levey-Baker CAMPAIGN SEASON ARRIVES FOR FOUR REPUBLICAN SARASOTA COUNTY COMMISSION CANDIDATES ON YOUR MARK, GET SET … By Cooper Levey-Baker Associate Editor

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