Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Election Day Results and Ruminations

Just before the qualifying deadline last June, Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth thought that he might be out of needing an election campaign to secure a second term.

Five months later, he’s out of a job.

Weinroth lost to election denier Marci Woodward by four percentage points despite outspending her by roughly nine to one. Woodward never had run for office. Weinroth spent four years on the Boca Raton City Council before running for the District 4 seat that includes Boca and Delray Beach.

On the surface, the result might seem shocking. Look closer, however, and it becomes less so.

When Weinroth won in 2018, he became the first Democrat to hold the southeast county seat since it was created in 1990. Former Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams held it before Weinroth, and Mary McCarty had held it for nearly two decades before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

In that 2018 race, Weinroth also faced a first-time candidate who had little money and name recognition. Yet William Vale defeated Weinroth among Election Day voters. Early ballots put Weinroth over the top.

This year, Weinroth had a 12,000-vote margin in mail-in ballots, which Democrats tend to favor. But Woodward more than made up for that among early in-person voters and those who cast ballots on Election Day.

Republicans pushed mail-in ballots sooner and harder than Democrats in Florida. Given GOP conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, the party now encourages polling-place voting.

Weinroth’s loss also was less of an upset than Republican Sara Baxter defeating Michelle McGovern in District 6, which includes the Wellington area and the Glades. That had been a traditionally Democratic seat on the seven-member commission.

Perhaps the biggest factor in the District 4 race, however, was turnout—or lack of it.

Weinroth got roughly 6,000 fewer votes this year than he did in 2018. If he had matched that previous total, he would have won, despite the impressive Republican showing in the county. Gov. DeSantis lost the county in 2018 by 100,000 votes. This year, he won it by 26,000 votes.

Woodward will be sworn in this month.

Gossett-Seidman wins Boca House seat

Nationalizing the Florida House 91 race paid off for Republican Peggy Gossett-Seidman.

I wrote Tuesday about how Gossett-Seidman, a Highland Beach town commissioner, had repeatedly tied Boca Raton City Councilman Andy Thomson to federal issues such as immigration and crime. Neither is an issue for the council.

But the tactic worked. Gossett-Seidman defeated Thomson by four percentage points to win the seat that includes Boca Raton and portions of West Boca. Gossett-Seidman will be part of an 85-35 GOP majority in the House.

Gossett-Seidman’s totals mirrored Woodward’s. She lagged in mail ballots but did much better with in-person voters. The state and county Democratic parties did nothing to counter the GOP-financed ads against Thomson.

Broward voters help Democrats secure Boca win

Senator Tina Polsky

Democrats will represent Boca Raton and West Boca in Congress and the Florida Senate. Each won, however, because of votes from outside Palm Beach County.

Jared Moskowitz won the U.S. House 23 seat that Ted Deutch had held for a decade. Moskowitz, though, got 2,500 fewer votes in the county than Republican Joe Budd. Moskowitz received about 25,000 more votes in the portion of the district that includes Broward County.

Similarly, Tina Polsky defeated William Reicherter in Senate District 30 by outpolling him in Broward. The numbers were about the same as the congressional race. That’s no surprise; the districts largely overlap.

Lori Berman will continue to represent Delray Beach in the Senate along with western areas north of Glades Road. Berman beat Republican Steve Byers for the District 26 seat.

Frankel wins sixth term

Democrat Lois Frankel will go back to Congress for a sixth term. She beat Republican Dan Franzese by 10 points. Frankel represents District 22, which includes Delray Beach and areas north to West Palm Beach.

Voter support for Palm Beach School District property tax extension

Throughout this election cycle, Republicans from DeSantis on down accused public schools of “indoctrination” and “sexualization.” The GOP politicized school board races as never before, hitting the theme of “parental rights.”

Yet county voters gave their biggest margin—74 percent—for any issue on the ballot to the extension of a property tax for the Palm Beach County School District. That was even better than the margin in 2018.

On that note, Palm Beach was one of the rare large counties where no “parental rights” candidate won a school board seat. On Tuesday, Marcia Andrews became the third incumbent to defeat such a challenger. Karen Brill and Erica Whitfield, whose district includes Delray Beach, did so in the primary.

Boca council pays tribute to Andy Thomson

This was Thomson’s last week of meetings, and on Monday his council colleagues paid tribute.

Monica Mayotte got teary as she praised Thomson’s demeanor and thoughtfulness. Similarly, Andrea O’Rourke noted that while the two hadn’t always agreed, she respected Thomson’s observations and preparedness.

Councilman Andy Thomson

I thought back to August 2018. Thomson was running against Kathy Cottrell, whom Mayotte and O’Rourke had backed. The three of them celebrated prematurely at a watch party when early results showed Cottrell ahead. After a recount, however, Thomson prevailed by 32 votes.

On Monday, all that was in the past. Thomson responded in kind, praising the council’s collegiality and ability to disagree without being disagreeable. It was the sort of moment missing at most higher levels of government. Thomson followed up with a post-election email titled, “Thank you, Boca.”

Mayotte, O’Rourke, Yvette Drucker and Mayor Scott Singer now must decide whether to fill Thomson’s seat on an interim basis or wait for the results of the March election. Thomson’s successor will serve a full, three-year term.

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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