Some Thoughts on Election Winners, Losers, and Mail-In Voting

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Photo via Unsplash

Many winners emerged from Tuesday’s primary election. The biggest winner, though, was mail-in voting.

Four years ago, about 54,000 voters in Palm Beach County cast ballots through the mail for the statewide primary. That number more than tripled on Tuesday, with voters wary of going to polling places because of COVID-19. Roughly three of every four ballots in the county came by mail. Statewide, 2.2 million people voted by mail, more than twice the number from the primary four years ago.

Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link easily defeated her opponent to win a full, four-year term after Gov. DeSantis suspended Susan Bucher early in 2019 and appointed Link. She switched her affiliation from Republican to Democratic and still beat a lifelong Democrat.

Unfortunately, election problems of the sort that caused DeSantis to suspend Bucher continued. Results were late again, though only one judicial race remained within the recount margin. Link attributed the delay to problems with new technology and mistakes by poll workers.

Though case numbers have declined, it is unlikely that the virus will have been controlled before the general election on Nov. 3. So the controversy over the U.S. Postal Service has major implications for Palm Beach County and Florida. Turnout will be much higher in November and the nation will be watching Florida, so Link will be under pressure to do better.

Here are other thoughts on Tuesday’s results:

Slosberg / Polsky

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Irv Slosberg ought to retire.

The former Florida House member lost by 33 percentage points to Tina Polsky for the state Senate seat that includes Boca Raton and West Boca. Slosberg put roughly $1.5 million of his own money into the campaign.

This was the third time Slosberg has tried for the Senate, the previous attempts coming in 2006 and 2016. He spent about $4 million combined.

Polsky, who resigned her House seat to run, will be favored in November over Republican Brian Norton.

Congress match-ups determined

Matchups for the congressional seats that include Boca Raton and Delray Beach are set. The Republican challengers to incumbent Democrats Ted Deutch in District 22 and Lois Frankel in District 21 are a bit… extreme.

Lawyer James Pruden won the four-way GOP primary to go against Deutch, who has held the seat since 2009 and beat Slosberg in that 2006 Florida Senate primary. On his website, Pruden says: “It is undisputed that the Democratic leadership is organized as the party of high taxes, high crime, late-term abortion and infanticide, open borders, class warfare, business oppression, failed socialist policies and instigators of an effort to overthrow a free election.”

But Pruden is mild compared to Laura Loomer, who will be Frankel’s opponent. Multiple social media sites have banned Loomer because of her racist posts. Loomer, who never has held public office and doesn’t own property in Palm Beach County, calls herself “a proud Islamaphobe.” At Loomer’s victory celebration was convicted felon Roger Stone.

Deutch’s district also includes Parkland and other portions of northwest Broward County. Frankel’s district extends north from Delray Beach to West Palm Beach. Pruden and Loomer are considered longshots.

Beach & Parks winners

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Erin Wright and Steve Engel have kept their seats on the board of the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District.

In Seat 3, Wright defeated Nanci-Jo Feinberg 56 percent to 44 percent. In Seat 5, Engel got 55 percent against Eric Pendergraft and William Vale. Because Engel won an outright majority, there will be no runoff in November.

Though the insurgents lost, credit their campaigns for uncovering a mistake that had gone unnoticed. After the city of Boca Raton annexed the Royal Palm Polo neighborhood in 2013, the Beach & Parks district didn’t also annex the property. That should have happened through a local bill in the Legislature. All the rest of Boca Raton is within the district.

Yet Royal Palm Polo residents have been paying beach and park district taxes. The mistake came to light when a property owner complained that his ballot didn’t include the district elections. Feinberg and Pendergraft then raised it.

Although the error wasn’t the grand conspiracy that Feinberg and Pendergraft accused Wright and Engel of creating, it did amount to improper taxation. The property appraiser’s office will refund three years worth of district taxes—the maximum time allowed under state law—to those homeowners. Wright and Engel can help decide whether the disrict should seek to annex Royal Palm Polo.

The rise and fall of Al Jacquet

If Al Jacquet’s career is over, many former supporters in Delray Beach will imagine what might have been.

Jacquet won a seat on the city commission in 2012. As a young man of Caribbean descent in a diverse city, Jacquet seemed to be a comer. Then things changed.

When Jacquet won a second term in 2014, his backers used deceptive mailers against the opponent he barely defeated. During that second term, Jacquet began missing meetings—including some at which the commission made major decisions. He was accused of misusing his office to get a parking ticket dismissed and settled the complaint.

Then in 2016, Jacquet won a seat in the Florida House. He aligned his campaign with that of Mack Bernard, a Haitian-American who was running for the county commission seat that includes most of Delray Beach’s Haitian-American neighborhoods. Bernard also won. Jacquet had been an aide to Bernard in the Legislature.

Reporting by the The Palm Beach Post showed that Jacquet and Bernard had gone into the homes of Haitian-American voters and helped them fill out absentee ballots. Yet State Attorney Dave Aronberg chose not to investigate.

Jacquet won a second term in 2018 without opposition, but problems came back. He went missing in action, giving up his district office. He faced fines over his late filings of campaign financial documents. He made a homophobic slur against one of his House opponents, Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Omari Hardy, who is not gay.

On Tuesday, Hardy beat Jacquet in the Democratic primary. State reports showed that Jacquet raised about $40,000 but spent nothing. Jacquet had no comment about the loss.

Barbieri wins, but not by much

Frank Barbieri won another term on the Palm Beach County School Board, but his margin was puzzling.

Barbieri has been on the board since 2010, representing Boca Raton and West Boca. In recent years, he secured two new elementary schools for Boca Raton through the 2016 sales-tax surcharge and helped the city add another elementary school that had been planned for elsewhere. Given the COVID-19-influenced drop in sales tax collections, those two schools might have been delayed without Barbieri’s actions.

Though school board races are non-partisan, Barbieri is a well-known Democrat. His opponent, Suzanne Page, did no endorsement interviews, though she did post a video for the county’s Republican Party. She has had no involvement in local public education. Her degree is in economics.

Page had no credibility as a school board candidate and hardly campaigned. Yet she got 40 percent. If that was because Republican voters blame Barbieri —the board chairman—for the school district starting with online classes only, that was bad information and misplaced priorities.

Boca takes up issues on hold

COVID-19 restrictions and the once-a-month summer meeting schedule have caused non-virus issues to back up in Boca Raton. Next week, the council will start getting to some of those items.

During Monday’s workshop meeting, the commission will hear an update on the plans for widening Interstate 95 and adding two toll lanes. A related project is the reshaping of the interchange at Glades Road.

Council members also will hear from the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Museum officials want changes at Mizner Park that would allow easier entrance to the museum from the west side of the amphitheater. The changes were to allow for what the museum said would be large crowds at an exhibition that Director Irvin Lippman said he could not yet announce.

The council was cool to the museum’s first proposal. Another question will be how certain the exhibition is, given the effect of COVID-19 on travel and cultural institutions.

Camino bridge update

The bridge over the Boca Raton Inlet on A1A will close Monday for no more than 60 days for repainting. Traffic will be detoured north to the Palmetto Park Road bridge and south to the Camino Real bridge.

Correction

Correction: In writing about the raises Delray Beach city commissioners have voted for themselves, I said that Adam Frankel would not be on the ballot next year. In fact, Frankel’s term expires in 2021.

Clarification

Clarification: On Tuesday, I wrote that the resignation agreement with Delray Beach Assistant City Manager Suzanne Fisher had not been finalized. City Attorney Lynn Gelin noted that the terminology should have been “not fully executed.” I’ll have more on the agreement next week.