All the Latest Election News From Boca and Delray, Golf Course Update and More

Acting Mayor Scott Singer

Delray and Boca: Who’s running so far

After two announcements last week, political dominoes in Boca Raton and Delray Beach are falling.

On Monday, Boca Raton Councilman Scott Singer filed to run for mayor. He did so after incumbent Susan Haynie—as expected—said she would run next year for the term-limited seat of Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, a former mayor of Boca Raton.

Similarly, Singer’s announcement comes as no surprise. He considered challenging Haynie this year before running for reelection in Seat A. Last year, voters approved a change in filling council vacancies that Singer (pictured above) had proposed. Singer likely offered that proposal with the current scenario in mind.

Whether Haynie wins or loses the commission race, she must resign as mayor. She must submit her letter of resignation next June when qualifying to run for the commission, and the resignation will take effect on Nov. 20, 2018. That’s when the new commission is sworn in and 16 months before the mayoral term expires.

Previously, whomever the council had named the deputy mayor after the March 2018 election would have served as mayor until the next scheduled city election. There isn’t one scheduled for March 2019—no council terms are up—and there are no statewide elections that year, when a Boca race could have been added to the ballot. Because there could have been no mayoral election until March 2020, whoever filled the mayor’s seat could have had nearly 18 months in office as a springboard for seeking a full term. Any council member wanting to be mayor would have been greatly disadvantaged if he or she had not been the deputy.

Under Singer’s change, voters will fill the mayoral vacancy through a special election in March 2019 that city staff estimated could cost $135,000. The deputy mayor still will serve as mayor after Haynie leaves, but the period will be shorter and there will be less of an advantage.

Still, expect a lot of maneuvering in the council’s organization session after the March election for what normally is a ceremonial vote to name a deputy mayor. The council will choose whether to fill the council vacancy until the election.

Singer’s most likely opponent for mayor would be Councilman Robert Weinroth. But Weinroth can’t get into that race for now because he is seeking reelection in March to Seat D and has a challenger. One rumor is that Monica Mayotte entered the race in part because Weinroth’s critics wanted to distract his attention from a run for mayor.

A Singer-Weinroth race would create two open seats on the council. Even if Weinroth doesn’t run and there’s only one vacancy, I’d guess that Andy Thomson would be interested. He lost to Andrea O’Rourke this year in a three-way race for Seat B.

Whatever happens from here, enough dominoes already have fallen that politics will be a big factor in the council’s dynamic for many months.

Haynie

At this point, Haynie’s chances for that county commission seat look very good.

District 4 includes all of Boca Raton, eastern Delray Beach and Boynton Beach and coastal areas north through the oceanfront condo town of South Palm Beach. Boca Raton voters make up nearly 45 percent of the electorate, and Haynie never has lost a city election. In addition, Abrams will endorse her.

County commission races are partisan. There’s almost an equal split in District 4 between Democrats and Republicans. Like Abrams, Haynie is a Republican. Like Abrams, however, Haynie has polled well in high-turnout precincts of Broken Sound where many democrats live.

Two Democrats who might have given Haynie some reason for concern are Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein and Thomson. Glickstein, though, has “no interest” in running for county commission and Thomson ran as a Haynie ally. As noted, he is more interested in seeing what becomes available on the council.

Delray races

In Delray Beach, the catalyst also was an announcement from the mayor. With Cary Glickstein, though, the news was that he isn’t running.

Until then, the scenario was Commissioner Shelly Petrolia, who already had announced her candidacy for mayor, challenging Glickstein. Now it’s going to be a colleague challenging Petrolia.

Shelly Petrolia
Shelly Petrolia

On Monday, Commissioner Jim Chard filed for mayor. “I think there are a lot of opportunities the city isn’t seizing,” Chard told me. “There also are problems with city government that we still haven’t smoothed out.”

It seemed certain that the mayor’s race would draw at least one other candidate, even though Petrolia had about $50,000 in her campaign account by the end of August. As in Boca Raton, the mayor’s title is ceremonial, but the profile is higher than that of the city commissioners. And because the mayor runs the meetings, the mayor can set the tone for the city. Glickstein has used the position to advocate help for local governments with sober homes.

From a political standpoint, Petrolia’s surrogates in the March elections each lost by nearly 30 points. Chard defeated one of those surrogates. My guess is that Chard will try to attract the same sort of support from Delray Beach’s civic and business groups and neighborhood leaders that he had for the commission race.

City commission

With Chard’s announcement, his Seat 2 opens. One early name I’ve heard is Bill Bathurst, a Realtor who serves on the historic preservation board. It will be interesting to see if someone files to essentially run as part of a slate with Chard.

Anyone contemplating a run for mayor or commission will have to decide sooner than usual. At the request of Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, who wanted more time to get ballots to service people overseas, the city commission moved up the qualifying period. It would have been Jan. 30-Feb. 13. Instead, qualifying will begin on Dec. 4 and end on Dec. 18.

As of last week, Delray Beach City Commissioner Mitch Katz has an opponent.

Katz is the Seat 3 incumbent. Previously, Ryan Boylston—owner of Woo Creative—and former commissioner Adam Frankel had filed for Petrolia’s Seat 1. Boylston has shifted to Seat 3.

Boylston told me Monday that he decided to switch after meeting with Frankel, who during his time in office appointed Boylston to the downtown development authority. Boylston said of Katz, “I don’t think his personality is aligned with that of the city. I want to empower the city’s creativity, and I think he’s stifling it.”

Term limits kick in for Hager

Term limits also kick in next year for State Rep. Bill Hager, another former Boca Raton council member.

Hager ran unopposed last year for his fourth and final four-year term. Based on the numbers and recent history, however, Hager’s District 89—which includes Boca Raton and much of Delray Beach—is a swing seat.

In 2012 and 2014, the Democratic candidates got 47 and 48 percent, respectively. The registration is 36 percent Republican, 33 percent Democratic and 31 percent Independent. But it can be tough to attract credible Democratic candidates. It would make news if the party flipped the seat, but the winner almost certainly still would be part of a distinct minority in a chamber whose Republican leaders scare even GOP colleagues who are local officials with the House’s assault on home rule.

Two Democrats have filed for District 89. James Bonfiglio has loaned himself $25,000 and raised about $2,000. Ryan Rossi, a Realtor, has loaned himself $1,100 and raised roughly $5,000. Republican Matt Spritz, an attorney, has loaned himself $40,000 and received $50,000 in contributions. Those totals are through September.

Golf course news

The Boca Raton City Council may choose tonight between two bidders for the city’s western golf course. The big news is that one of the bids has dropped and the other has become iffier.

GL Homes and Lennar each had bid $73 million for the nearly 200 acres west of the Florida Turnpike on Glades Road. Now that the two companies submitted their contracts, however, GL’s bid is $60 million.

The company explained the difference by saying that its review showed less developable land. According to the company’s letter to the city, property that is off-limits because of cell phone towers and a covenant that requires a buffer near neighboring homes reduce by 21 acres the land on which GL could build homes. GL also wants 18 months to determine how much environmental cleanup would cost and would reserve the right to “terminate” the contract at that point. GL’s offer is not contingent on how many homes the county might allow the company to build. The course lies within the county, not the city.

Lennar’s offer remains at $73 million, but the offer is conditional. The company would not pay for cleanup costs above $500,000. As the staff memo notes, a report commissioned by Compton Associates before it dropped out of the bidding estimated those costs at $3 million, which would reduce the net purchase price by $2.5 million.

Lennar further wants a limit of 18 months on obtaining development approvals. In addition, the company says workforce housing requirements could affect its potential profit. For all those reasons, the staff notes, it’s impossible to determine at this point the real price.

After more than year, council members surely would have wanted a more clear-cut choice. Unfortunately, there remain a lot of uncertainties. From here, the companies can change the price but not the terms of the contract. The council doesn’t have to decide tonight.

Debris removal update

Boca Raton’s contractor has completed its pickup of Hurricane Irma debris. The city now will return to regular bulk pickup schedules only for yard debris. Trucks will not pick up wood fences and other construction debris.

According to a city spokeswoman, the contractor picked up 180,000 cubic yards of debris. For comparison, the total after Wilma was roughly one million cubic yards, and the worst of Irma didn’t hit us. Between now and the start of hurricane season June 1, the city will conduct an intensive education program on tree planting and trimming.

CORRECTION

Last week I wrote that Glickstein could have served another three-year term as mayor—which would have made it eight years in all—because his first two years filled out the term of the previous mayor.

Actually, Glickstein ran in 2013 for the last two-year term before voters changed to three-year terms. Term limits kick in only after consecutive three-year terms, which would have allowed Glickstein to serve eight years. If Petrolia had run for reelection in Seat 1, she could have served that long for the same reason.

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