Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Upcoming Elections, A Few Legal Updates and Boca Bash Returns

Robert Weinroth leads most of his congressional rivals in fundraising—mostly because of money from himself.

The former Boca Raton city council member and county commissioner raised $222,000 in the first three months of the year, according to the most recent federal campaign finance report. But $100,000 of that was a personal loan.

Weinroth is running in the Republican primary for the chance to challenge incumbent Jared Moskowitz, the incumbent Democrat in U.S. House District 23. It includes Boca Raton, West Boca and portions of Broward County south to Fort Lauderdale. Weinroth switched parties after losing his county commission re-election bid in 2022. That year, Weinroth endorsed Moskowitz.

Robert Weinroth

As of Wednesday, Weinroth and three other GOP candidates had qualified for the Aug. 20 primary. Two are Gary Barve and Joe Thelusca. Neither seems to be a serious candidate. Thelusca’s campaign address is outside the district, though the address of his consulting company is within District 23. Barve has run for local office in California and for the U.S. Senate in Virginia. He has raised just $7,600—and spent it all.

The other candidate to qualify is Joe Kaufman. His website says that he started the first local chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition and lists a long affiliation with the GOP. Kaufman has raised about $37,000.

Carla Spalding has filed paperwork for the GOP primary but has not qualified. The qualifying period ends at noon on Friday. According to her report, Spalding has raised $539,000.

Two years ago, however, Spalding ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a central-Broward district. Her campaign address is an office building in Deerfield Beach. But Spalding’s website and the state elections office shows her as a candidate in District 23.

Beyond that loan, Weinroth’s contributions include $5,000 from James Batmasian, Boca Raton’s largest downtown private property owner. Weinroth also got $13,200 from individuals associated with Boca Raton-based NextGen Management. And he received $1,000 from Boca Raton uber-philanthropist Christine Lynn. Another $2,500 came from Weinroth’s wife, Pam.

Frankel and District 22 race

Meanwhile, three Republicans have qualified to challenge Lois Frankel, the Democrat who represents District 22. It includes Delray Beach, West Delray and areas north and west to West Palm Beach.

Rep. Lois Frankel (D)

Businessman Dan Franzese is seeking a rematch with Frankel. Two years ago, he won a five-way primary and got 45 percent of the vote against Frankel in the Democratic-leaning district. Franzese has raised $624,000 but has only $245,000 cash on hand—likely because the primary is so competitive. Right behind Franzese is Andrew Gutmann, with $587,000 raised and $459,000 on hand. 

Little separates the two ideologically. Franzese claims that he is the only candidate to endorse Donald Trump. Gutmann promises to fight “the WOKE,” based on a letter he wrote to his daughter’s private school when the family lived in Manhattan. He accused the school of being “hellbent on turning its students into progressive activists.”

Also qualifying is Deborah Adeimy. She lost to Franzese by just 130 votes. Adeimy has raised $125,000.

Frankel, who is seeking a seventh term, has raised $1.13 million and has even more cash on hand—$1.36 million. Another Democrat, Dean Halper, has filed paperwork to run but has not qualified.

I’ll have an update next week on both races.

Update on Barbieri school board seat

Another candidate has withdrawn from the Palm Beach County School Board race to succeed Frank Barbieri.

Last week, Shannon Komonsky Scaglione dropped out due to what her letter to the elections office called “unforeseen circumstances.” During a brief interview on Wednesday, she declined to elaborate.

Scaglione’s departure means that for now there’s a field of five running for the seat that includes Boca Raton and West Boca. Qualifying takes place in June.

I recently wrote about one of the new entrants, Charman Postel. The others are Gloria Branch and Brian Stenberg.

Branch is the daughter of Art Johnson, who went from principal of both Boca Raton high schools to superintendent for 10 years, ending with his resignation in 2011. Branch graduated from Boca Raton High School and Florida Atlantic University.

After what she described as “30 years in business,” Branch said, she wanted to be a substitute teacher. Her experience “watching kids” over the last 18 months while subbing, she said, prompted her to run.

Branch said she would have run regardless of Barbieri’s decision not to seek a fifth term. What are her strengths as a candidate? “I know a lot of people,” Branch said, adding that she has “run campaigns. There’s a lot of work to do. Some of these kids can’t count.”

Stenberg filed after losing his Boca Raton City Council election last month. It was his second attempt.

Stenberg said, “I had people whispering in my ear, ‘If this doesn’t work out, try for the school board.’ Then I heard some of the same voices and more voices.”

Like Branch, Stenberg stresses his local knowledge. He, his wife and their children all attended district schools. Barbieri, Stenberg said, “did a lot of great things” for District 5, notably securing sales-tax surcharge money for the rebuilding and expansion of Addison Mizner and Verde schools.

Though some school board campaigns in Florida have become very strident, Stenberg said, “You have to listen to people and be respectful. You have to be stable.”

North Ocean lot developer offers settlement

I have written about the lawsuit against Boca Raton by the owner of the lot at 2600 North Ocean Boulevard. A judge ruled in February that the city had wrongly denied Azure Development public records as part of the dispute over Azure’s plan to build a duplex on the site.

Robert Sweetapple is Azure’s attorney. He told me Wednesday that the developer has offered a settlement that would call for a “substantially smaller” project. The city council would have to approve any settlement.

Ethics commission finds no probable cause on Long-Davey case

Rob Long
Delray Beach City Commissioner Rob Long

The Florida Commission on Ethics has found no probable cause to investigate a complaint filed by Delray Beach City Commissioner Rob Long against Chris Davey.

The two had served together on the planning and zoning board. When Long ran last year, Davey threatened to expose Long’s business dealings with a lawyer who appears before the board if Long didn’t drop out. Davey is an ally of former Mayor Shelly Petrolia, who was supporting Long’s opponent. The commission found that Davey did not misuse his position. He is no longer on the planning and zoning board.

Those dealings did come out. As a member of the city’s legal department said after Long requested an opinion, however, they did not amount to a conflict of interest that would have prevented Long from voting on projects the lawyer represented. Long also sued Davey for defamation over comments made during the campaign. A judge dismissed the case.

Delray Beach gets Blue Flag Award

Delray Beach City Hall (Photo by Christiana Lilly)

Speaking of Delray Beach, the city announced Wednesday that it has received a second straight Blue Flag Award for the quality of the public beach.

The Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education issues the recognitions every year. As the group’s website states, the program “challenges local authorities and beach operators to achieve high standards in the four categories of water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety.” It adds, “The Blue Flag has become a highly respected and recognized award working to bring together the tourism and environmental sectors at local, regional and national levels.”

Climate Action Town Hall meeting today

Also speaking of Delray Beach, the city holds its quarterly town hall at 5 p.m. today. The event will take place at the Fieldhouse in Old School Square. According to the city’s website, the topic will be “climate action.” A consultant has estimated that fortifying Delray Beach against rising seas could cost almost $400 million.

 Boca Bash this Sunday—and 2022 case still unresolved

cole goldberg
Cole Goldberg; photo from Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Boca Bash, the annual event that the city disavows, will take place Sunday. It will be on Lake Boca, but the city itself has nothing to do with the gathering of boozing boaters.

Meanwhile, the criminal case from the 2022 Boca Bash continues. Cole Preston Goldberg faces three charges for allegedly strangling his girlfriend. The next event is a status check on Aug. 15. In March, Goldberg’s attorney asked for a delay because he has had to travel to California “sometimes on short notice” to care for a brother who has cancer.

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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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