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Palm Beach County’s most competitive state House race taking shape

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 by George Bennett

Democrat David Silvers, who is hoping to topple Republican state Rep. Bill Hager of Boca Raton in a coastal swing district, says he raised about $19,000 from contributors and kicked in $5,000 of his own money during his first three weeks as a state House candidate.

Democrats consider Hager’s District 89 seat their best opportunity in Palm Beach County to unseat a Republican. The GOP holds a narrow voter registration edge of 36 percent to 34.4 percent in the district, which includes Boca Raton and oceanfront communities from the Broward County line to Singer Island.

Hager says he raised about $7,500 in November, which would bring his overall total to about $79,000.

Fundraising reports covering November are due next week.

Silvers, 34, is director of product development at Tekno Books, which markets sci-fi, technology thrillers and other electronic books as a subsidiary of Boca-based Hollywood Media Corp. In a press release today, he accuses Hager of being a “career politician” and of being unwilling to vote against Republican leadership in Tallahassee.

Hager, a former insurance executive who also served on the Boca Raton city council, says: “I’m happy to have competition. I think it’s healthy.”

Former House Speaker Tom Gustafson to replace Goodman in state House run against Hager

Friday, July 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Democrats will pick former House Speaker Tom Gustafson to run for state House District 89 race incumbent against state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, according to Palm Beach County Democratic party leader Mark Alan Siegel.

Gustafson, who represented Broward County in the House for more than a decade, will replace Pamela Goodman, who ended her campaign earlier this week because of her husband’s health problems.

The county Democratic Party executive committee will meet on Tuesday to officially make the selection, Siegel said.

Gustafson, a Wellington resident and the godfather of Tri-Rail, currently does not live in the Palm Beach County coastal district but said he’s had his Wellington house on the market for six months and had planned to move to the Boca Raton area before deciding to join the race.

Gustafson, 62, was elected to the Florida House in 1976 and served as speaker from 1988-1990 when Democrats controlled the legislature. His resume includes lengthy stints as a politician, lawyer and academic. Gustafson now serves as the director of research programs in the Finance and Administration Department at Florida International University but is retiring Tuesday, he said.

Gustafson specializes in community planning and transportation issues and was instrumental in the creation of Tri-Rail, which serves Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Gustafson said he wants to bring his multi-disciplinary expertise to Tallahassee again to help make the state a better place to live.

“The issues don’t change very much. They get updated. Things become more important one year than the next. But the rhythm stays the same,” Gustafson said. “The parties come and go in terms of who’s the majority. It changed before. It will change again. What is important is we have a state that needs attention. Politics is in the details. If you can work through the details with a focus and, in my case experience not only in politics but in the practice of law and academia, you can come up with good answers. And that’s what I hope to do.”

Democrats have targeted the District 89 race as one of their state priorities and were disappointed by the departure of Goodman, a former vice-president of the Florida League of Women Voters who had nearly universal support within the county.

Gustafson has been out of office for more than two decades and never represented Palm Beach County. Democratic operatives predicted Gustafson, who’s lived in Wellington for a decade but is well-known throughout the state, will be able to tap into resources far beyond the county to help fund the race against Hager, who has collected more than $100,000 for his reelection.

“I don’t think anyone except political aficionados will remember him but remember campaigns are about sharing and providing information,” Siegel said. “This is somebody who’s ready to hit the ground running.”

League of Women Voters VP to challenge Rep. Hager

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by George Bennett


Florida League of Women Voters VP Pamela Goodman has decided to run as a Democrat against state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, in a coastal district where Republican and Democratic registrations are fairly evenly split.

Dems have spent months trying to recruit a challenger for the newly drawn District 89, which is made up of precincts that voted 52 percent for Barack Obama in 2008, then favored Republican Rick Scott over Democrat Alex Sink in the 2010 governor’s race. Republicans have a 37.4-to-35.8 percent registration edge over Democrats in the district.


Goodman declined to discuss specific issues in a brief interview Tuesday. Hager’s campaign was quick to pounce on statements she made in 2009 when she was considering a run for Palm Beach County Commission against Republican Commissioner Steven Abrams.

Abrams voted against a property tax rate of $4.34 per $1,000 of appraised value, saying he favored a rate of $4.29 or lower.

“It was a despicable, disgusting vote. … His vote was unconscionable for Palm Beach County,” Goodman said at the time, arguing that a lower level would require the county to make unacceptable service cuts. Goodman ultimately decided not to run for commission.

Hager consultant Tom Plante today called Goodman “a seriously flawed candidate with a record for supporting a major tax increase at the height of the recession. Bill Hager is fiscally conservative, as is this coastal District.”

Candidate qualifying begins: Who will get a free ride?

Monday, June 4th, 2012 by George Bennett

Florida’s four-day period for candidates to qualify for the 2012 ballot begins at noon today and ends at noon Friday. While many candidates have been campaigning and raising money for months, this is the week when they must actually pay qualifying fees and submit paperwork to appear on the ballot.

In Palm Beach County, Democratic County Commissioners Priscilla Taylor and Shelley Vana are beginning the week without any announced opposition and will automatically win reelection if no one qualifies to challenge them by Friday. State Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, does not have an announced opponent either, but it’ll be surprising if he ends the week without a Democratic foe.

Hager is running in newly redrawn House District 89, where Republicans have a narrow voter registration edge but Barack Obama beat John McCain by 5 points in 2008. Some Dems have tried to persuade state Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, to challenge Hager, but Clemens appears committed to a state Senate race. Florida League of Women Voters VP Pamela Goodman would be a “fabulous” candidate, county Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel said last month. Goodman, who resisted Democratic recruiting for a 2010 county commission race, hasn’t revealed her 2012 plans.

House unanimously passes watered-down ‘Caylee’s Law’

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Lying to the police when a child goes missing would be a felony under a measure unanimously passed by the Florida House this afternoon and almost certain to be approved by the Senate.

“Caylee’s Law” (HB 37) comes in response to Casey Anthony’s acquittal last year of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee. The House approved the measure, identical to a Senate companion (SB 858), with a 113-0 vote.

“This bill assures that we do not have a repeat of the Caylee Anthony fiasco,” Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, said.

The proposal, crafted by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, would make it a third-degree felony for parents or guardians to lie to law enforcement officials during an investigation when a child under the age of 16 is missing and is seriously injured or dies. Each count would be punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000.

Under the proposal, Casey Anthony could have been sentenced to 20 years behind bars for misleading police in the investigation into her missing daughter, who was later found dead.

Hager was among other lawmakers who wanted an even stronger law that would have made it a crime for parents or guardians to report a child missing within a certain period of time. But Negron, a lawyer who headed a special Senate committee to look into the issue, rejected such far-reaching proposals because law enforcement officials advised that such a law might confuse parents.

Grass-roots cred: at least four local candidates make ballot by petition

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 by George Bennett



At least four local candidates have secured spots on the 2010 ballot by collecting signatures rather than paying a filing fee.

Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioners Jess Santamaria and Priscilla Taylor and state House candidates Tami Donnally (R) and Lori Berman (D) turned in valid signatures from at least 1 percent of voters in their districts to qualify for the ballot.



The deadline to turn in signatures was noon Monday. Elections staffers are still checking on petitions submitted by five other candidates: Democratic county commission hopeful Michael E. Jackson, state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and state House candidates Mark Marciano, Francisco Rodriguez and Bill Hager.

The period for state and county candidates to submit final paperwork and filing fees to qualify for the 2010 ballot is June 14-18.


Dems recruit another candidate for open Hasner seat

Saturday, March 6th, 2010 by George Bennett

Democrats have long touted House Majority Leader Adam Hasner’s Palm Beach-Broward seat as a pickup opportunity when Hasner leaves this year because of term limits. Republicans have roughly a 39-to-35 percent registration edge in District 87 and have been losing ground over the past eight years.

But Democratic hopes suffered a blow in January when candidate Lori Berman, who had raised more money than Republican Bill Hager, quit the race to run in more heavily Democratic District 86.

Now Dems have recruited retired construction manager Laura Rawlins-Blum of Boca Raton to run in District 87. Rawlins-Blum, active in the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee, was encouraged to run by Dems including former League of Women Voters President Pamela Goodman. Goodman, who had been urged by some Democrats to run for the seat, will host a kickoff fund-raiser for Rawlins-Blum.

Big-spending GOP House hopeful Hager unchallenged — but probably not for long

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by George Bennett

Republican former Boca Raton councilman Bill Hager — whose $50,670 in spending is tops for all non-incumbent state House candidates in Florida — is without an opponent in his race for the seat of term-limited Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton.

Democrat Lori Berman, who out-raised Hager in 2009, dropped out of the District 87 race last week and switched to more Democrat-friendly District 86. District 86 is where Rep. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, plans to leave to run for state Senate as part of a massive shuffle being guided by the former Robert Wexler political machine.

Sachs is banking on state Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, winning a Feb. 2 primary and April 13 special election to replace Wexler, who retired this month to head a Middle East think tank. Deutch, Sachs and Berman have all been endorsed by Wexler and helped by his former consultant, Eric Johnson.

With Berman leaving the District 87 race, insurance agency owner Len Turesky, a Democrat, is considering running against Hager. Turesky plans to meet with Johnson and others to discuss the race.

Dem Berman holds early financial edge over Republican Hager in race for Hasner’s state House seat

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 by George Bennett



In a state House race that has attracted attention from legislative leaders of both parties, Democrat Lori Berman holds an early money-raising lead over Republican Bill Hager in state House District 87, where House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton, is leaving because of term limits.

Berman raised $21,643 between July 1 and Sept. 30 for a total of $52,818. Hager raised $12,575 during the quarter for a total of $38,575 in contributions. He’s also kicked in $14,500 of his own money.

Hager has already spent $35,306 on the race, according to his report, while Berman has spent $4,501.



The Palm Beach-Broward seat was considered safe GOP turf with Hasner running. But Republicans only held a 38.9-to-35.4 percent voter registration edge in 2008, giving Dems optimism for next year when Hasner won’t be on the ballot. House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands of Weston and 2010-12 Dem leader designate Ron Saunders of Key West have helped Berman raise money while Republican 2010-12 Speaker designate Dean Cannon of Orlando has helped Hager raise campaign cash.

Big-name Dems back Berman for Hasner’s state House seat

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 by George Bennett

With state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton, term-limited in 2010, Democrats are making a serious play for his District 87 seat. The district, which includes parts of southern Palm Beach County and a few Broward County precincts, has a slight Republican registration edge and was effectively out of reach for Dems when prolific fund-raiser Hasner was running.

In a sign that Democrats are more optimistic about their post-Hasner prospects, several A-list Dems are on the host committee for a fund-raiser next week for Democratic candidate Lori Berman, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton.

The money-raising committee includes Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson, state Sen. Ted Deutch and state Reps. Kelly Skidmore, Maria Sachs and Kevin Rader. Wexler’s top local aide, Wendi Lipsich, is also listed as one of the hosts.

Former Boca Raton councilman Bill Hager is the only Republican in the District 87 race.

Giuliani to raise $$ for Loeb

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 by George Bennett

Former NYC mayor and onetime GOP presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani will headline a May 8 fund-raiser for 2010 Republican state House candidate Nick Loeb at the Manalapan home of Richard DeVos, the Amway-founding billionaire who owns the Orlando Magic.

Loeb and former Boca Raton Councilman Bill Hager are seeking the Republican nomination to replace term-limited state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton, in District 87, which includes parts of southern Palm Beach County and a few Broward County precincts.

Loeb joins GOP race to succeed Hasner

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 by George Bennett

Delray Beach activist Nick Loeb announced at tonight’s Palm Beach County GOP meeting that he’ll run in 2010 for the south-county seat of term-limited state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton. Former Boca councilman Bill Hager has also announced he’s running in the GOP primary. Democrats are expected to make a play for the seat as well. Loeb is managing partner of Carbon Solutions America, a company that helps businesses become more energy efficient.

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