Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia sent a cease and desist letter to opponent Mike Rahn over an electronic mailer. But Rahn stands by the political communication, which slams Servia for calling Gov. Ron DeSantis’ policies racist.

“Misty Servia hates Ron DeSantis because Misty Servia is a liberal. She accused DeSantis of racism,” Rahn said. “She fought naming a park after him. And every vote she’s made these last four years is contrary to the DeSantis Doctrine of Freedom First.”

The dispute centers around the mailer Rahn sent rallying supporters to sign petitions.

“My current Republican opponent has taken $90,000 from big developers, called Gov. DeSantis a racist, and tried to give the Democrats help when we redrew our local districts,” Rahn wrote.

The comments about DeSantis reference a controversial pop-up clinic opened last year in Lakewood Ranch to direct an additional 3,000 Moderna vaccines to the community. Then-Manatee County Commission Chair Vanessa Baugh had advocated for the location to be within her County Commission district, but that choice ultimately drew heavy criticism and national ridicule.

Servia criticized the selection of Lakewood Ranch, specifically for prioritizing the “whitest demographic, the richest demographic” in the county. That clip ended up featured in a Fox News segment where pundit Laura Ingraham defended DeSantis and pushed back on the criticism.

“It’s racist to follow the science and vaccinate the most vulnerable population?” Ingraham said on her show. In the clip, footage of Servia with the caption: “Fl County Commissioner accuses DeSantis of racism.”

Now Servia, a Republican first elected to the Commission in 2018, faces Rahn in a closed Republican primary — and at a time when many Republican voters hold DeSantis in high esteem.

She said she supports DeSantis’ re-election and that she always made her comments in criticism of Baugh, a longtime adversary on the board.

“I never called Gov. DeSantis a racist,” Servia said. “I criticized Vanessa Baugh, and the state Ethics Commission investigated it and agreed with me that what she did was an abuse of her power. Baugh has a real problem with the truth. And my opponent has nothing to run on, which is why he hasn’t told anyone what he wants to do on the Manatee County Commission.”

Baugh faced ethics complaints when news surfaced; she put herself on a VIP list to receive the vaccine at the clinic. The Commission in December found probably cause she abused her position. Her attorney, Jonathan Hackworth, notably has also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Baugh for posting on Facebook that Servia “doesn’t support Gov. DeSantis; she called him a racist!”

Hackworth’s letters to Rahn and Baugh stress Servia’s support of the Governor.

“As you are no doubt aware, Commissioner Servia firmly and unequivocally supports Gov. DeSantis,” the letters state. “But contrary to your direct knowledge of her support for Gov. DeSantis, you have improperly publicly represented the contrary. We have the transcript of the conversation in question available for your review, which will clearly refute your patently false and inflammatory statements. Your actions are defamatory and without merit. These remarks have caused harm to Commissioner Servia’s reputation in her business and political communities.”

But Rahn’s campaign expressed confidence its criticisms of public remarks by a sitting County Commissioner were totally within bounds. Rahn points to the clip of Servia’s comments, the same that appeared on the Laura Ingraham show, as solid grounds for his characterization.

“Our campaign will run an aggressive voter education effort to make sure every Republican voter knows two main things,” Rahn said. “First, that Misty Servia accused Gov. DeSantis of racism, because she hates him. Second … Misty Servia wants to take more of your hard-earned money and hoard it instead of spending it on projects that will improve our Quality of Life.”

He suggested the positions Servia has held, including those critical of DeSantis.

“If Misty Servia wants this campaign to be about who supports Gov. DeSantis,” he said, “she should withdraw.”


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