Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

‘Medical freedom’ Candidate for Sarasota Memorial hospital board drops out

By Vaseline May27,2024

Dr. Stephen Guffanti said he never would have filed after two Republicans filed for the third seat in the main chamber.


Dr. Kendra Becker-Musante, one of three declared Republican candidates for At-Large Seat 3 on the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board, ended her campaign on May 22, citing a desire to stay out of a three-way battle that might force a second round after the August 20 primaries.

But Becker-Musante was also ineligible to run for office this year because she did not register as a Republican until February 23, 2024. Because that was after the closing of the registration books for the presidential preference elections, it only came into effect. 20th of March. Under Florida law, any candidate seeking a party nomination must be registered as a party member for 365 days prior to the qualifying period.

Republicans Kevin Cooper and Dr. Stephen Guffanti had already filed for the seat when Becker-Musante, who was promoted as part of a “medical freedom” candidate slate — most recently at the May 8 meeting of the America First Southwest Florida Caucus — submitted her paperwork. .

In a prepared statement, Becke-Musante wrote that she was applying “for the support and direction of leaders and experienced members of the Republican Party in the area.

“I would join an all-female group focused on trust, truth and informed consent at SMH.”

Becker-Musante further claimed that Guffanti told her he would drop out of the race once she signed up.

Guffanti responded via email: “If Kendra had entered the race before me, I would not have entered for the same reason of avoiding a three-way race.

“If she had had a clear message to serve the community, I would have withdrawn,” he added.

Becker-Musante, a family physician, moved to the Sarasota area three years ago during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most recently, she joined the staff of the We the People Health and Wellness Clinic, a concierge medical clinic founded in Venice by former EMT Tanya Parus and Victor Mellor, a confidante and sometime local spokesperson for Mike Flynn, a national security advisor to the former president . Donald Trump who criticized the hospital’s response to the pandemic last year.

Parus is running against Republican incumbent hospital board chair Sarah Lodge for the Central District seat 1 in what is currently the only universal primary taking place on August 20.

Becker-Musante endorsed Parus in that race and Mary Flynn O’Neill in the Republican primary against Pam Beitlich, who is retiring from her role as executive director of Women & Children’s Services at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System.

Parus and O’Neill, Flynn’s sister, are the last two remaining members of the four-candidate list for “medical freedom.”

Dr. Tamzin Rosenwasser, who is running against incumbent Sharon Wetzler DePeters, has shifted slightly and become more aligned with Guffanti.

Candidates want a doctor elected to the hospital board

Both Rosenwasser and Guffanti cite the need for a physician to serve on the public hospital board, which sets the strategic direction of the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System.

The last physician to serve on the board was Richard Rehmeyer, a board-certified otolaryngologist who was appointed to the board in September 2016 to fill the seat 2 position in the Northern District and won a four-year term in 2020.

In 2022, Rehmeyer faced three challengers, in part due to the initial “health freedom” candidate slate who ran in response to concerns that SMH was approaching the COVID-19 pandemic.

He came in second in the primaries behind current board member Victor Rohe, who was recruited to be led by Guffanti. Rohe subsequently won the seat in November.

In addition to Guffanti and Rosenwasser, Dr. Venice resident George Davis is running as a Democrat for At-Large Seat 3.

Four other candidates for hospital board are linked by PAC

The 2024 race could shake up the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board even more than the 2022 race. If two of the four candidates critical of hospital policies and based on the principles of “medical freedom” win, it would creating a majority that could potentially change hospital policy, even though the three current health care freedom candidates, Rohe, Patricia Maraia and Bridgette Fiorucci, have rarely voted. as a block.

For example, while Rohe and Fiorucci voted against adopting the recommendations from the hospital’s COVID-19 performance study, Maraia voted with the majority.

More recently, Rohe found no support in his attempt to endorse Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo’s anti-COVID-19 vaccine position, with the board ultimately drafting and passing a motion that instead endorsed the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship.

The four Republicans in August; In the October 20 election against ‘freedom’, the candidates, the incumbents DePeters and Lodge and the newcomers Beitlich and Cooper, are not running smoothly.

However, they do have the support of a political action committee, the Citizens for Healthcare Excellence Action Fund. A brochure endorsing these four candidates recently circulated in Sarasota County.

The chairman of that PAC – which has raised $54,000 and spent $22,301 between its inception on October 22, 2023 and March 31, 2024 – is Dr. Kirk G. Voelker, a practicing pulmonologist and member of the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation board of directors. directors.

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