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Political unknown pledges $100,000 start-up money for Palm Beach County commission race

Monday, September 23rd, 2013 by George Bennett


Real estate investor Andy O’Brien says he has put $100,000 of his own money into his 2014 campaign for the Palm Beach County commission seat of Steven Abrams.

O’Brien, a member of the county Democratic Executive Committee, opened his campaign last week.


Republican Abrams was appointed to the District 4 seat in 2009 by former Gov. Charlie Crist and won the seat without a challenge in 2010.

Subscribers to can read more about it in this week’s Politics column.

Also in this week’s Politics column:

– the word that eliminated U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, from a once-in-a-century spelling bee at the National Press Club.

– U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings‘ assessment of Port of Palm Beach Commissioner Jean Enright, who is challenging him in a 2014 Democratic primary.

– the candidate whose fundraiser last week was visited by County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor and former commissioner Burt Aaronson.

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.

Who ‘crossed the line’ in Democratic state Senate primary?

Monday, May 31st, 2010 by George Bennett



In the heated Democratic state Senate District 27 primary, attorney Peter Burkert says state Rep. Kevin Rader “crossed the line” by voting for an insurance bill when he’s an insurance agent.



Rader and his allies say it’s Burkert who crossed the line with a “false and reckless” attack in a race where Dems are already nervous about the GOP taking the seat in the fall.

Speaking of line-crossers, remember when Gov. Charlie Crist was a Republican and tapped Democrat Priscilla Taylor for a Palm Beach County commission vacancy? Now that Crist is an indie Senate candidate, find out if Taylor is willing to cross the line for him.

Read about it in this week’s Politics column.

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.


Local black officials and candidates weigh in on Sen. Harry Reid’s “Negro dialect” remark

Monday, January 11th, 2010 by George Bennett

A new book’s revelation that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was enthusiastic about Barack Obama’s presidential prospects because he is “light-skinned” and speaks “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one” created a firestorm over the weekend.

Republicans have blasted Reid and called for him to to step down from his leadership position while Democrats have generally circled the wagons in support of Reid.

Retired Lt. Col. Allen West, a black Republican running for a Palm Beach-Broward congressional seat, called Reid’s remarks “disgusting, despicable, and unacceptable. They are representative of how intellectual elite liberals do indeed speak of black Americans in their closed private spaces.”

But Debra Robinson, Palm Beach County’s only black school board member, said “I don’t see why it’s such an issue…I think that what he said was correct. My problem was he used the word ‘Negro,’ which is a bit outdated.”


County corruption not just a white thing, says commish who wants more diverse ethics panel

Monday, November 30th, 2009 by George Bennett



So far the Palm Beach County elected officials going to the federal hoosegow have been white Baby Boomers. But as the county prepares to enact sweeping ethics reforms, County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor says she expects to see a more diverse group coming under scrutiny.

Read in this week’s Politics column about Taylor’s proposal for the county’s planned ethics commission.

Corruption County: School board members like ethics watchdog, balk at county commission role

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 by George Bennett

A majority of Palm Beach County school board members likes the idea of bringing the $2.7 billion school district under the eye of a proposed county ethics watchdog — but not if county commissioners have the final say on filling the position.

After watching five local elected officials go to prison on federal corruption charges since 2006, county commissioners this summer endorsed the concept of an independent inspector general’s office with subpoena power to monitor public officials and government contracts.

But who would hire and fire and approve the budget of the inspector general remains an open question.


It’s official: He’s Rep. Bernard now

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 by George Bennett

Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach

Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach

Former Delray Beach City Commissioner Mack Bernard, who won an Aug. 25 special election to fill the state House District 84 seat, is officially a member of the state House of Representatives after the state’s Elections Canvassing Commission certified the results this morning.

Democrat Bernard, who couldn’t vote for himself in the special election because he lived outside the District in Delray Beach, switched his voter registration to a house in West Palm Beach in District 84 on Friday. Bernard said he’s closing on the house next month and has signed a lease to live there in the meantime.

Bernard’s term runs through November 2010. He replaces Priscilla Taylor, who left the House in July when she was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to fill a Palm Beach County commission vacancy.

Jacked up: Palm Beach County commissioners vote 5-2 to hike property tax rate by 14.9 percent

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 by George Bennett

After casting a preliminary vote earlier this month to boost the countywide property tax rate from $3.78 per $1,000 of appraised value to $4.34, Palm Beach County commissioners made it official Monday night.

The vote for the 14.9 percent rate increase was 5-2, with Commissioners Steven Abrams and Shelley Vana opposed.

Click here to read an account by our Jennifer Sorentrue.

Abrams is on the ballot next year. So is Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who supported the $4.34 rate. Commissioner Jess Santamaria, another supporter of the rate hike, is up for reelection next year but hasn’t announced whether he’ll run.

Question: Will the tax vote matter in any of the 2010 races?

Column: Formula to measure Dem zeal for “public option”; potential Richmond challenger; Thomas’ options

Sunday, August 30th, 2009 by George Bennett

Call it the Klein-Craft Axiom: In Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, Democratic enthusiasm for a government-run public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers is inversely proportional to the percentage of Republicans in one’s congressional district.



Liberal U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, and Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, are vocal cheerleaders for the “public option” that is a centerpiece of the health care overhaul pushed by House Democratic leaders.


Wexler and Hastings represent slam-dunk Democratic districts.

But in nearby Palm Beach-Broward District 22, which has slightly more Republican voters than Dems, U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, approached the topic cautiously in a “telephone town hall” with constituents last week.



During the teleconference, Klein sounded as if he’s leaning toward the public option and rejected the argument that putting the federal government in the market would drive out private insurers.

But he stopped short of embracing it.

“I’m still looking at it. I haven’t committed to it yet,” Klein said of the public option. And as for the entire 10-year, $1 trillion House plan, Klein said he has problems with the price tag and described himself as “not quite there yet on saying I’m supporting the bill.”



Striking a similarly cautious tone is Democrat Chris Craft, the St. Lucie County commissioner drafted by national Dems to try to unseat freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, in Republican-leaning congressional District 16.

The public option, says Craft, “is an option that’s on the table. I’m not 100 percent sold on it.”

* * *



Marcia Andrews, a former teacher and principal and school district administrator, is considering a run for the school board seat of veteran incumbent Sandra Richmond.


School board seats are nonpartisan. But here’s what makes Andrews’ potential bid interesting: she’s a member of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s executive board. And Richmond, elected six times since 1988, is one of the county’s longest-serving Democratic elected officials.



Party leaders traditionally discourage challenges of incumbents from within the party. County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel says he’s not backing Andrews, but hasn’t discouraged her, either, because “I don’t know if Sandi’s running again.”

Richmond says she’ll “probably” seek reelection next year.

* * *



Cedrick Thomas, who lost to Mack Bernard in last week’s special state House election, has to give up his Riviera Beach council seat Sept. 22 because he ran for the House.


But he doesn’t rule out seeking reappointment by the council.



Thomas is also weighing a 2010 challenge of Bernard or taking on County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who was a key Bernard backer.

Jobs, education top priorities for special House election winner Bernard

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 by George Bennett

Bernard: first-time candidate got 60.5 percent

Bernard: first-time candidate got 60.5 percent

Coming off a decisive win in a special state House election Tuesday, Mack Bernard said he wants to work on education issues and on improving the job skills of residents in his district.

Final results from Tuesday’s District 84 election showed Democrat Bernard getting 60.5 percent against Riviera Beach Councilman and fellow Democrat Cedrick Thomas.

Turnout was 4.7 percent. In a special Senate election three weeks earlier, turnout in Palm Beach County was 4.9 percent.

Bernard, who takes office Sept. 22, will replace Priscilla Taylor, who stepped down in July when Gov. Charlie Crist appointed her to a Palm Beach County commission seat.

“The top, top priority is the workforce,” Bernard said today. He said he wants to work with groups such as the nonprofit Workforce Alliance to help District 84 residents become more competitive in the job market.


Bernard wins with 60.5 percent in state House 84 special election

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 by George Bennett

Bernard: takes office Sept. 22

Bernard: takes office Sept. 22

Mack Bernard, a business lawyer and Delray Beach city commissioner, won Tuesday’s special election for the District 84 state House seat with 60.5 percent, according to results that include all but provisional ballots.

Bernard, a 33-year-old Democrat, defeated Riviera Beach Councilman and fellow Democrat Cedrick Thomas in the race to fill the seat of Priscilla Taylor, who left the state House in June when Gov. Charlie Crist appointed her to the Palm Beach County commission.

Turnout was about 4.7 percent — even lower than the 4.9 percent turnout of eligible Palm Beach County voters for a special Senate election three weeks earlier.


Republican activist flushes chance to censure Crist; state GOP keeps eye on proceedings

Sunday, August 16th, 2009 by George Bennett



Barry Carson’s brief trip to the men’s room spared Gov. Charlie Crist the embarrassment of being censured by Palm Beach County’s Republican Party last week.

Carson, a Republican Executive Committee member from Jupiter, was out of the room and missed the vote when the rest of the committee split 65-65 on a resolution Wednesday night to rebuke Crist for his various departures from GOP orthodoxy.

The tie vote means the resolution failed.

Carson said he would have voted for censure.

mensroomBut after hours of debate and an earlier vote on whether to table the censure resolution, Carson went to the men’s room. When he got back, his name had been passed in the roll call of Republican committee members.

Carson said he told party leaders he was back and wanted to vote before the roll call was complete, but was ignored by county GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein and others who opposed censure.



“Sid didn’t want the resolution and because of my prostate problem he found a way to get it (defeated),” Carson told the Politics column.

Dinerstein said he didn’t know of Carson’s wish to vote until it was too late.

“This guy didn’t say a word until our vote was finished and recorded,” Dinerstein said. “To me it was a little like sending in your absentee ballot late.”


Big Brother: Not us, says state GOP

Big Brother: Not us, says state GOP

The Republican Party of Florida, which is chaired by close Crist ally Jim Greer, took an interest in the censure vote. Carla Rivera, a field rep from the state GOP, attended the meeting and videotaped the county GOP’s deliberations.

“We do that a lot of times when we go to events,” state GOP spokeswoman Katie Gordon said. “It’s not sort of Big Brother overseeing what the local parties are doing. We’re all on the same team.”


State Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, is bolstering her Palm Beach County support as she runs for the Palm Beach-Broward state Senate district now held by CFO-seeking state Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach.



Bogdanoff is already backed by House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach. And the hosts for a Bogdanoff fund-raiser later this month include some big Boca Raton names: Mayor Susan Whelchel, Boca Councilwoman Susan Haynie, GOP activist Jack Furnari and former county Republican Chairman Tom Sliney.

Bogdanoff faces two Palm Beach County rivals — state Rep. Carl Domino of Jupiter and businessman Nick Loeb of Delray Beach — in a Republican primary in which about 64 percent of Republican voters live in Palm Beach County.




Retired educator Vincent Goodman, a Republican who was one of Crist’s four finalists for the Palm Beach County commission appointment that eventually went to Democrat Priscilla Taylor, has opened a campaign to run for the seat in 2010. Democrats have a 4-to-1 registration edge over Republicans in Taylor’s minority-dominated District 7.

Palm Beach County GOP considers censuring Crist tonight

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 by George Bennett

Palm Beach County’s Republican Executive Committee tonight will consider a resolution to censure Gov. Charlie Crist for bucking the GOP on a variety of matters.

Crist has been criticized by members of his own party for appearing with President Obama at a Fort Myers rally to promote the $787 billion economic stimulus plan. He’s been faulted for not campaigning for some local Republican candidates in 2008 and for appointing Democrats to various posts — including Priscilla Taylor to fill a Palm Beach County commission vacancy last month.

Across Florida. Republican executive committee members tend to be more conservative than the average GOP voter, just as Democratic committee members tend to be more liberal than the average Democrat. Crist has been censured by the Volusia County GOP and lost straw polls of GOP committee members in Highlands, Pasco and Lee counties to Marco Rubio, his rival in the 2010 Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Sid Dinerstein and other local GOP leaders oppose the motion to censure Crist. But there’s no telling how the entire committee, which has roughly 120 members, will vote.

Crist shrugged off the Volusia censure earlier this month, saying it had “not much” meaning to him.

Money advantage for Bernard in special state House 84 race

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 by George Bennett

Delray Beach City Commissioner Mack Bernard has raised $22,500 and put in $15,000 of his own money for his Aug. 25 special state House race against Riviera Beach Councilman Cedrick Thomas. Thomas has raised $12,651, according to reports of activity through last Thursday.

Bernard has spent $13,198 — with $10,215 of that going to the Patriot Games consulting firm. Thomas has spent $1,460.

Bernard and Thomas, both Democrats, are running to replace Priscilla Taylor, who stepped down last month when Gov. Charlie Crist appointed her to a Palm Beach County commission vacancy.

Ex-Rep. Harper endorses Thomas in House 84 special election

Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by George Bennett

Former Democratic state Rep. James Henry “Hank” Harper Jr., who this week failed to qualify for an Aug. 25 special state House election because of a paperwork mixup, will announce this afternoon that he’s endorsing Riviera Beach Councilman Cedrick Thomas in the race over Delray Beach City Commissioner Mack Bernard.

Harper noted that Thomas lives in District 84 while Bernard currently does not. The seat was represented by Priscilla Taylor until she was appointed this month to the Palm Beach County Commission.

“I know that Cedrick has been very involved in the district. It is necessary for me to support someone who has at least worked diligently in the district,” Harper said. He and Thomas are slated to appear together at a 3 p.m. news conference at Riviera Beach City Hall.

Election qualifying paperwork? D’oh!!!!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 by George Bennett



Opening a campaign and actually qualifying for a spot on the ballot are two different things in Florida. The distinction can confuse ordinary citizens or first-time candidates. It also tripped up former Democratic state Rep. James Henry “Hank” Harper Jr. on Tuesday, even though he’s been through the qualifying process three times before.

Click here to read how Harper failed to qualify for the special election to fill the state House District 84 seat.

Harper out of state House 84 special election?

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 by George Bennett

Though he collected enough signatures to get on the ballot for a special state House election, the Florida Division of Elections says former Democratic state Rep. James Henry “Hank” Harper Jr. did not qualify for the race to replace Priscilla Taylor.

Two other Democrats — Riviera Beach Councilman Cedrick Thomas and Delray Beach City Commissioner Mack Bernard — qualified for the District 84 race before today’s noon deadline.

Harper said he was unaware of any problem with his candidate paperwork and planned to call the Division of Elections for an explanation.

“The Division of Elections did not receive qualifying papers for Mr. Harper,” a spokeswoman for the Florida Secretary of State said in an e-mail.

With no other candidates running, an Aug. 25 primary will decide who serves the final 14 months of Taylor’s House term. Taylor left her House seat when Gov. Charlie Crist appointed her to a Palm Beach County commission vacancy.

GOP activist’s motion to censure Crist slated for August vote

Monday, July 20th, 2009 by George Bennett

A Republican activist’s effort to get the Palm Beach County Republican Party to censure Gov. Charlie Crist for a variety of partisan sins is coming back up in August despite the county GOP chairman’s wish that the matter would go away.

County GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein opposes Republican Executive Committee member Steven Ledewitz’s censure measure, but says “I don’t know if I can prevail on that” when 100 or so Republican Executive Committee members vote on it Aug. 12.

Ledewitz drew applause, but was ruled out of order by Dinerstein, when he raised the censure motion at a February GOP meeting. At the time, many Republicans were boiling at the Republican governor for appearing a few days earlier with Democratic President Obama at a Fort Myers pep rally for the $787 billion economic stimulus bill.

Ledewitz brought up the Crist censure again at the April GOP meeting, but the committee voted 66-24 to table the matter until August. Now the August meeting is approaching, and Ledewitz isn’t backing off. In fact, he says there’s a new reason the local GOP should condemn Crist: the governor’s appointment this month of Democrat Priscilla Taylor to fill a vacancy on the county commission.


Crist sets special elections for Taylor House seat

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Dara Kam



A special primary election is slated for Aug. 25 to fill outgoing state House Rep. Priscilla Taylor’s District 84 seat.

Gov. Charlie Crist set the special primary date and a general special election for Sept. 22 to replace the West Palm beach Democrat, whom he appointed to replace Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie Greene.

Democrats Mack Bernard and Hank Harper, a former state representative, have already filed to fill Taylor’s seat next year, when term limits would have forced Taylor out of office.

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