Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Challengers for Frankel Seat & a New Factor in the FAU Search

Three Republicans are raising money to challenge U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel.

The six-term Democrat represents District 22, which includes Delray Beach, West Delray and areas north to West Palm Beach. She won last year against Daniel Franzese with 55 percent in a terrible year for county Democrats. Gov. DeSantis shocked most pundits by carrying the county.

Franzese hopes for a rematch—so much so that he has loaned his campaign $125,000, according to federal campaign finance documents for the period through June 30. In all, Franzese, who works for a financial services firm, has raised about $203,000.

Andrew Gutmann also is running in the GOP primary. A former investment banker who now helps to run his family’s chemical distribution company, Gutmann has loaned his campaign $125,000. He has about $175,000 from other sources.

The other candidate is Deborah Adeimy. Franzese defeated her by just 132 votes in the 2022 primary. Adeimy has reported only about $2,000 in contributions.

Records show Franeze and Adeimy as property owners in Palm Beach County. The district’s boundaries do not extend beyond the county. Gutmann is not listed as an owner. His campaign address is a shopping center on South Federal Highway in Delray Beach.

District 22 is a fairly safe Democratic seat, but those 2022 results may have emboldened some Republicans. Last year, Franzese regularly linked Frankel with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a regular GOP target. On his website, Gutmann calls himself “a leader in the nationwide movement fighting against the woke takeover of schools.” Adeimy says “extremists” have staged a “hostile takeover” of the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, Frankel regularly sends emails detailing money for the district from programs that Republicans almost universally have opposed. She secured almost $11 million for Delray Beach’s water plant from the infrastructure bill. Previously, she helped Delray Beach fight the proliferation of sober houses by getting the federal government to loosen its restrictions on such local regulations.

DeSantis campaign donations cast shadow on FAU search

fau
Photo by Alex Dolce

Speaking of campaign contributions, here’s one that may matter in the search for Florida Atlantic University’s president. It was on May 31 for $100,000, from Barbara Feingold to Gov. DeSantis’ Never Back Down presidential committee.

Feingold is vice chairman of FAU’s board of trustees. She’s also a member of the search team. Sources tell me that Feingold regularly claims to speak for the governor. Six days earlier, Feingold donated $6,600 directly to DeSantis. There is no limit on donations to committees.

Feingold also donated to the campaign account of State Rep. Randy Fine, who’s running for the Florida Senate. Fine sponsored some of DeSantis’ culture-war education bills, and the governor has touted Fine as his choice to lead FAU. Among other things, Fine once suggested shutting down the University of Central Florida for five or 10 years over a spending dispute.

The state university system halted the search on July 7, two days after Fine was not one of three finalists to succeed John Kelly. As I reported, Fine’s campaign account showed an expenditure at Flakowitz in Boca Raton on a June day when the search committee was meeting.

FAU is preparing to open a dental school. As I reported, an unnamed private donor has given $30 million toward construction. A rendering shows the school being named for Jeffrey Feingold, Barbara Feingold’s late husband.

Fine has no experience in higher education. All three finalists do. Around FAU, however, the fear is that the university system’s investigation of the search will give the governor’s allies grounds to restart the search or will last long enough to discourage the finalists and force them to drop out. Feingold’s six-figure donation to DeSantis will deepen that fear.

Plans for West Palmetto school

The Boca Raton Museum of Art has submitted preliminary plans for a new school on West Palmetto Park Road.

According to a letter from the museum’s architects, the plan calls for demolishing the one-story, 14,000-square-foot building and constructing a two-story school nearly double in size. The museum was on that site until moving to Mizner Park in 2000.

The new configuration, the application letter says, would “preserve the natural landscaping” on the site. With the new facility, museum officials hope to be teaching 11,000 students between September and April. That would be more than double the current total and “would be attainable only after several years of incremental growth.”

William P. Lowe, photo from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Arrest made in grisly Delray murder

During this week’s meeting, Delray Beach city commissioners praised the police department for making a quick arrest in a grisly murder.

On July 21, the department got its first call about what would be three suitcases containing human remains floating in the Intracoastal Waterway. On Aug. 3 came the arrest of 80-year-old William P. Lowe for killing his wife, Aydil Barbosa Fontes, and dismembering her body.

The case made international news. The praise was local and well-deserved.

Boca’s conversion therapy ban case continues

Even though Boca Raton has repealed its ordinance banning the discredited practice of sex conversion therapy after losing in court, the case continues.

City Attorney Diana Frieser recently held an executive session—public excluded—on the case. A city spokeswoman said the issue of attorney fees remains unresolved.

Two practitioners sued the city and county, which enacted a similar ban. Boca Raton prevailed at trial but lost at the 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals, after which the council repealed the ban.

One of those plaintiffs, Robert Otto, spoke at the June 13 council meeting. By passing the ban, Otto said, the city showed “disdain” for the Constitution. It was “offensive,” he said, that as Boca Raton repealed the ban the council approved a resolution discouraging the practice of conservation therapy that mainstream medical groups have debunked.

Otto urged the council to repeal that ordinance. There was no response from the council.

Delray honors Yvonne Odom

Today is the first day of school in Palm Beach County. Delray Beach is using the occasion to honor one of its trailblazing residents.

That would be Yvonne Odom. In 1961, as a 15-year-old, she integrated Seacrest High School. The city’s resolution urges

“all citizens, schools, businesses, and community organizations to join in recognizing the value and the need for safe, equitable, and inclusive educational opportunities.” It notes Odom’s 45 years as a teacher. More recently, she has become known as the grandmother of Coco Gauff, the world’s seventh-ranked female tennis player.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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