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Senate races attract slew of candidates who live outside districts

by George Bennett | June 29th, 2009

On his way to winning the state House District 78 seat last year, state Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, often reminded voters that he actually lived in the district while Democratic primary rival Steve Nichol did not and candidate Steven Perman had merely rented an apartment there while owning a house in Broward County.

Now Rader is entertaining thoughts of running next year in a state Senate district where he doesn’t live.

He has plenty of company.

The only announced candidate for the Senate District 27 race, Wellington Councilwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto, lives about 1,000 feet outside the district. Likely candidate Sharon Merchant lives miles away in Palm Beach Gardens. And Fort Myers attorney Peter Burkert doesn’t live in Senate District 27 either.

Florida law requires legislators to be residents of their districts at election, so the District 27 hopefuls have plenty of time to establish new addresses.

District 27 is represented now by state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, who’s running for attorney general in 2010.

Republican District 27 hopefuls Benacquisto and Merchant live in Senate District 25. That’s the seat Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, is leaving to run for chief financial officer.

Two of the four candidates running for Atwater’s seat don’t live in Senate District 25. State Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, is homesteaded and registered to vote in District 28 but owns a condo in District 25 and says he’ll establish residency there. State Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, also lives outside District 25 but has said she’ll move.

The two District 25 Senate hopefuls who live in the district now are state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Delray Beach businessman Nick Loeb.

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4 Responses to “Senate races attract slew of candidates who live outside districts”

  1. Worth Repeating Says:

    The importance of electronic communication and information cannot be overstated. In state and local campaigns its use has been limited mostly to fundraising and internal communication. That will change. I am involved in both marketing and politics (Democrat), and would like to offer some comments regarding nomad politicians.

    In the 2010 election cycle we are likely to have more contested seats than ever before. Vacancies created by term-limits and early retirements will make it a busy political season.

    There also seems to be a growing number of nomad politicians such as Rader and Merchant who seek career opportunities wherever they arise. The result is more contested primaries.

    A contributing factor to Merchant’s loss in the 2002 District 27 primary was the perception that she was a carpetbagger. And in 2010 it won’t be any easier for her, Rader and other nomads to avoid that label. It’s one thing to be involved in a district and live just outside its boundaries, as is the case with Benacquisto and some others, and quite another to have no involvement and live far away, as with Rader and Merchant. They will have a difficult time overcoming homegrown candidates who have a network of supporters IN THE DISTRICT. Each supporter will email, Twitter and IM their own personal network of friends on behalf of their candidate.

    Especially in primaries, electronic person-to-person contact, combined with the many other forms of interactive Internet communication such as Facebook and You-Tube, will be immensely effective because it’s low-cost and personal.

  2. Cynical Idealist Says:

    Worth repeating…

    As a lobbyist in Tallahassee I have serious heartburn supporting any candidate who doesn’t live in the district at the time of their announcement.

    Whether it’s because the party strongly encourages them to support a candidate (Benacquisto), or even because of a personal connection, people here too often throw their support to a candidate without knowing enough to know what they don’t know about the district that person is running in.

    Too often people here, as well as candidates for office, forget these seats belong to The Citizens of Florida, not to the rest of us…

  3. A Shapiro Says:

    We are our own people and do not need the back stabbers of south county politics. Aaronson, Fladel and the others in the corrupt political machine to stay out of our territory and we do not need Rader or any one else running in this area.

  4. Wellington Republican Says:

    Cynical, you’ve made some interesting observations in your posts. However, I believe there are exceptions to ones need to live in the district when announcing a candidacy. Benacquisto is a good example. As a village council member, she represents me and many other Wellington residents who live in District 27 in issues of local concern. She’s also been involved in issues that extend into areas of District 27 that are located outside Wellington. An example is the the dump site proposed by the Solid Waste Authority located at the doorstep of the western communities. It makes no difference to me that Benacquisto lives 1000 feet from the district 27 boundary – she’s been helping the residents of the district.

    It does make a difference to me that Merchant lives in Palm Beach Gardens and the only issue in which she’s been involved in 27 that I’m aware of is the dump. But she is a paid lobbyist trying to locate the dump next to us while Benacquisto organized opposition to it.

    Merchant needs to make a career decisision – lobbying or elected official. I checked the Florida lobbyist registration web page and she is still a registered lobbyist for the SWA. That dog won’t hunt in this district.

    And as Worth Repeating points out, Merchant, Rader and other “nomads” will find it difficult to overcome grass roots efforts that are now enhanced by instant, mass, personal communication.
    Distorted and misleading mailings, TV spots and the like can now be immediately challenged.

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