Normally low-wattage races for Sarasota hospital board drawing (the wrong kind of) scrutiny

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You know it is a quiet week in campaigns and elections news when the headlining race is one for the Sarasota Hospital Board. And when the issue of interest is whether a spate of new candidates for board seats implies a conspiratorial plan to privatize Sarasota Memorial Hospital. It’s not the juiciest of stuff for most — and the board is not a position that generally attracts much electoral competition.

Last week that changed. Speculation is swirling around the motivations for new candidates qualifying for five board seats. Indeed, in a rare turn of events, all five incumbents face fellow Republicans as primary challengers.

Most theories about this spike in hospital board interest surround whether HCA is trying to refill the board with members who may be more willing to support hospital privatization.

But instead of assuming that interest in community involvement means something nefarious is afoot – could it not be seen as encouraging that southwest Floridians will have a rare level of choice in who governs their public hospitals?

Especially when all but one board candidate vocally opposes hospital privatization? (And when the one who does support privatization is a disgruntled former SMG employee?) When HCA has not donated a penny to any current candidate? When HCA lacks financial interest in hospital board elections? And when a board decision to privatize SMH would only mean that county residents get to vote on the matter themselves?

Let’s just assume for one suspended-disbelief second that all of the above were not the case, and that HCA and/or a random group of likeminded Sarasota residents decided they wanted to change how their main hospital was run. Would it be that outrageous to get involved politically to do so? I thought that was kinda the whole point of our political system.

All evidence points away from HCA setting its scope on SMH. And the myriad public policy debates about hospital funding and community need will continue unmitigated by the composition of this board.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.