2016 Primary Endorsements
The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board met with candidates for offices across Palm Beach County to talk about the issues facing our communities in the Aug. 30 primary election.
Below are our endorsements. For more election coverage, visit The Post’s Know Your Candidates Guide at myPalmBeachPost.com/kycp2016 for everything you need to know about candidates running for offices in Palm Beach County.
U.S. House of Representatives
Both national parties are looking hard at this battleground district for the U.S. House of Representatives, which takes in Martin and St. Lucie counties and parts of north Palm Beach County.
Although it leans Republican, it’s been held by Democrat Patrick Murphy since he edged conservative firebrand Allen West in 2012. Now Murphy is running for the U.S. Senate, and a raft of candidates is vying to take his place in the Aug. 30 primary.
On the Republican side, Carl Domino is the best choice in a crowded field. All six candidates are brandishing conservative credentials and agree on most issues. But Domino, although he lost badly to Murphy in 2014 (60 percent to 40 percent), has the deepest experience and appears to have the best chance of reaching out to independent and moderate voters.
His opponents include Rebecca Negron, a nurse and the wife of incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron; Brian Mast, a disabled U.S. combat veteran of Afghanistan; and Noelle Nikpour, a Fox News pundit — none of whom accepted invitations to meet with The Post Editorial Board.
Two other candidates did meet with Editorial Board. Rick Kozell, a business lawyer, told The Post that he offers the perspective of a small-business owner. Mark Freeman, a physician, said he is intent on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a system emphasizing the free market and preventive care. Both men are running TV ads to stir up conservative voters (Kozell: “Hillary Clinton should be in prison.” Freeman: “Barack Obama has made America weak.”), but would do nothing to ease the animosities contributing to the dysfunction in Washington.
Domino served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2002 to 2010, where he worked across the aisle with Democrats on issues important to his district, such as Lake Worth Lagoon restoration. He spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy, including a tour in Vietnam, retiring as a commander. A Florida State grad and a Harvard MBA, he is an investment manager of national repute. His résumé is by far the strongest in the Republican primary.
On the Democratic side, the Post endorses newcomer Randy Perkins.
The CEO and founder of a disaster response company, AshBritt, Perkins is a first-time candidate who has contributed heavily to some Republicans (for business reasons, he told the Editorial Board, he has donated to governors of both parties) and became a Democrat only in November, switching from No Party Affiliation.
He rose from modest circumstances, even relying on food stamps in his early married years. “I’ve seen poverty,” he said, “and I’ve been fortunate to see the other side of that, too.”
Now Perkins is running a mostly self-funded $3.7 million campaign — far more than his primary opponents, civil trial lawyer Jonathan Chane and engineer John (Juan) Xuna. He has sworn off future fundraising, calling the process “disgusting and appalling.”
All three Democratic candidates share many of the same general liberal positions, although Chane puts more emphasis on gun control, Xuna on wealth inequality and the environment, and Perkins on job growth and help for people with special needs.Chane says he grew up with values of social justice imparted by his parents, who founded the synagogue Temple Judea, in Palm Beach Gardens, where he has been president. Xuna, who calls himself a democratic socialist, says he would bolster the scant number of scientists in Congress.
Perkins, however, is in the unique position of pointing to his own biography and being able to say that “everyone should have the same opportunities” as he to reach success. That message, as well as business relationships across the aisle, should resonate with a wide range of voters in this purple district.
Florida State Senate
Senate Districts 29, 30 and 31
A big court win by voter rights groups for fair legislative districts has put the Florida Senate in play. And Democrats look to become the biggest beneficiaries by picking up as many as four seats in this year’s elections.
Not enough for a 20-20 split, but 22-18 makes for more than a mere nuisance vote. It makes debates over education funding, gun control, Medicaid expansion and the environment more substantial.
In the Aug. 30 primary election for state Senate, Democrats must consider not only who has been effective as a lawmaker, but who has the institutional knowledge and established relationships to help move — or stall — legislation. To that end, The Post is recommending state Rep. Kevin Rader in Senate Dist. 29, state Rep. Bobby Powell in District. 30 and state Sen. Jeff Clemens in Dist. 31.
Sen. Jeff Clemens
Clemens, after six years in Tallahasee, is set to become the Senate Democratic leader in the 2018 legislative session. Though one of the most progressive members of the upper chamber, Clemens has learned to work across the aisle to pass legislation. His work on a sober homes regulation bill is an example (though he admits there is still work to be done). Yet he is not afraid to mix it up — holding the Scott administration’s feet to the fire, for example, on online voter registration.For the Dist. 31 seat, he is being challenged by Emmanuel Morel, a former labor official who says he is running to give working-class people a voice on issues; and state Rep. Irv Slosberg, best known for passing driver safety and education laws. Slosberg’s decision to challenge Clemens came as a surprise, but he says residents deserve better representation and that he would do a better job fighting Scott and Republican leaders.The Senate is a bit less feisty than the House, however. Communication, cooperation and compromise are more in order. And Clemens is already a known quantity to Republican Senate leaders like Jack Latvala and Joe Negron.
Four years in the House gives Powell the advantage of relationships and knowledge of the legislative landscape. He is a tireless fighter on criminal justice issues that don’t tend to get much traction in a GOP-controlled House. But they are important issues to his Central Palm Beach County constituents. Powell, for example, was the only Palm Beach County lawmaker to immediately step forward in the wake of the Corey Jones shooting, demanding accountability and helping push through a body cameras bill.
His primary challenger for the Dist. 30 seat is political newcomer Michael Steinger, a successful personal injury attorney who puts education funding and Medicaid expansion at the top of his to-do list. He says his job has allowed him to work with different people throughout the county, and communicate across party lines.
Steinger chides Powell for not having successfully sponsored or co-sponsored enough legislation in his first term. But few Democrat-sponsored bills make it through a House with an overwhelming Republican majority.
Powell should fare better in the Senate and deserves the opportunity to show it.
The same goes for Rader, who wants to push a bigger funding increase for public education.
This year’s “record” education budget is woefully inadequate, he says. “Florida teachers should be starting at $50,000 a year,” he told The Post Editorial Board, “and top-tier Bright Futures scholarships need to be restored.”
Mindy Koch, a community activist and former educator challenging Rader for the Dist. 29 seat, agrees. She adds that the devastating algae blooms have also put the district’s waterways on the front burner.
Rader’s experience in the House, and with issues in the Glades should prove more helpful in that regard.
Florida State House
In the Republican-leaning Florida House District 85, across the north and western sections of Palm Beach County, a former aide to Rep. Pat Rooney is running against a third-generation Belle Glade farmer in the Aug. 30 primary.
We’re endorsing the aide. Andrew Watt, a lifelong resident of Palm Beach Gardens, is the son of former Rep. Jim Watt. Well-versed on a gamut of issues, especially growth management, he emphasizes relationships he’s built with community leaders. For example, he told The Post’s Editorial Board, he helped broker a conflict between Palm Beach Gardens and the School District over a dead-end road in front of two schools.
His opponent, Rick Roth, who is outspending Watt 2-to-1, brings “a management philosophy where I’ve spent 30 years spending my own money — so I’m very careful and very prioritizing that you spend your buck the best way.” Roth would reduce regulations and business fees but also focus on education to meet the higher technological demands of today’s workplaces.
Two Democrats and two Republicans are hoping take the seat being vacated by term-limited Democrat Mark Pafford in state House District 86, a central county area that stretches from Wellington to parts of West Palm Beach.
In the Democratic primary, Matt Willhite is facing Tinu Peña. On the Republican side, Laurel Bennett squares off against Stuart Mears, who lost to Pafford in 2014. The winners of the Aug. 30 primaries in the heavily Democratic district will compete in the general election Nov. 8.
Both Democrats are solid candidates. Willhite, a former U.S. Navy corpsman, is a captain with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue and served eight years on the Wellington Village Council. Peña, a former U.S. Army sergeant, engineer and small-business owner, has served on the county zoning commission.
Both want to tackle the water quality ills that led to this year’s destructive algae bloom. Both place a high priority on education, with Peña seeing a larger role for vocational ed. And both say they would seek out allies across the aisle — important, given the Democrats’ minority status in the House.
Peña, a first-generation American from Nigeria, would inject an understanding of diverse communities to the Legislature. That, and her grasp of infrastructure issues, would be valuable for her fast-growing area. But in this election, our nod goes to the more experienced Willhite, a self-described moderate who has built more relationships with area leaders, unions and trade associations.
Of the Republicans, Mears, an Army veteran, assistant principal at the county’s Adult Education Center and a real estate broker, is the better choice. A third-generation Floridian, he wants the state “to remain the same great place I lived and grew up in as a child.” He would improve education, he says, by killing off the Common Core and raising teacher pay.
Bennett, chief operating officer and founder of PHR Solutions, a medical records company, “wants to help Gov. Scott” on his budget priorities, according to her website. She also wants to ease veterans’ roadblocks toward getting their benefits, which is largely a federal issue.
We endorse Matt Willhite in the Democratic primary and Stuart Mears in the Republican.
In heavily Democratic District 87, three hopefuls are vying for the seat being vacated by Rep. Dave Kerner.
David Silvers, a Boca Raton businessman and the highest-spending candidate in the race ($220,000 in contributions, four times that of his nearest challenger), ran and lost to Rep. Bill Hager in coastal District 89 two years ago. A Democratic Party favorite, his priorities are improving education and expanding Medicaid.
Virginia Savietto, an Argentine-born marketing official, makes a credible claim that she is best suited to represent a district that is 50 percent Hispanic. “A working-class district needs a working-class elected official,” she told the Editorial Board.
We believe the best choice, however, is Darren Ayoub, of Palm Springs, an environmental attorney who grew up in the area. Ayoub brings a detailed understanding of the algae bloom crisis, which would be very valuable addition to the Legislature. He also sees a clear need to increase education spending so that “teachers get a living wage and we’re no longer near the bottom [among the states] in per-pupil spending.”
Voters in state House District 88, which runs east from Lake Park south to Delray Beach, tend to be focused on job creation, affordable housing, education dollars and criminal justice issues. And rightly so.
In this largely urban district, represented by state Rep. Bobby Powell the past four years, jobs are not being created fast enough to bring down unemployment; public schools suffer a disparity in funding; and trust between police and the community is difficult, to say the least.
Political newcomer Edwin Ferguson brings a fresh perspective and approach. A Riviera Beach criminal defense lawyer and small businessman, he promises to fight for things like police body cameras and economic incentives. But, he adds, incentives don’t mean much if local businesses aren’t “suitcase ready” when it comes to bidding on contracts.
As a former Delray Beach city commissioner, Angeleta Gray would push to further regulate sober homes. Gray, a Realtor, told The Post Editorial Board that her experience working both sides of the aisle to redevelop West Atlantic Avenue would help bring needed funds back to the district.
But Ferguson gets The Post’s endorsement because his more practical approach to accountability of taxpayer funds could help foster compromise in a Republican-dominated House.
Al Jacquet, a lawyer and current Delray Beach city commissioner, did not accept an invitation to interview with the Editorial Board.
In the House District 91 race, Emily Slosberg is seeking to replace her father, state Rep. Irv Slosberg in the south-central Palm Beach County district. Slosberg, 34, says she knows her way around the Legislature and “can get things done.”
But The Post recommends former state Rep. Kelly Skidmore for her proven experience and savvy. Skidmore, who helped push through laws cracking down on pain management clinics, said she would immediately make a renewed push for the Competitive Workforce Act banning anti-gay and gender-based discrimination.
Slosberg, a lawyer and political consultant, said her first sponsored bill would be to create a “Florida Stands with Israel” specialty license plate to send students 26 and younger to visit Israel to forge relations with the Middle East nation.
Palm Beach County Judges
Florida judicial races typically fly under the radar for most voters.
To be sure, some of that is due to campaign restrictions forbidding candidates from attending partisan political events or hosting fundraisers. But voter apathy during August primaries is also a major factor.
That needs to change. The judiciary is an ever more important check on the increasingly partisan imbalance in our legislative and executive branches. It is evidenced by the Florida Legislature’s war on a state judiciary that refuses to rubber-stamp inane laws, and Gov. Rick Scott’s transparent efforts to quickly fill any vacancy with “like-minded” candidates.
A diverse, fair and impartial bench is what’s needed in Palm Beach County’s busy circuit and county courts. And the 12 candidates vying for five seats in the Aug. 30 primary offer voters a chance to address that issue.
Judge Marni Bryson
In the Palm Beach County Court’s Group 7 race, The Post recommends keeping Judge Marni Bryson on the bench for a second six-year term. After a bitter fight to win the seat in 2010, Bryson has earned consistently high marks while being tough but fair.
Lisa Grossman, a North Palm Beach “coverage attorney,” is challenging Bryson for the seat and says the county bench can use “more efficient and impartial judges.”
But Bryson, who told The Post Editorial Board that she maintains a “core value” of making sure that due process and other constitutional rights are assured, meets that criteria and deserves to stay on the bench.
The Post recommends West Palm Beach trial attorney Gregg Lerman in the Group 11 race among three first-time candidates. Lerman, who successfully sued to keep the governor from filling the vacancy being left by Judge Laura Johnson, says a 30-year career defending clients from diverse backgrounds allows him “a demeanor that is very important” in terms of working through the county court’s burgeoning caseload.
He is being challenged by Thomas Baker, a Jupiter family law attorney, and Dana Santino, who specializes in probate and guardianship cases. Baker served for a decade as a Palm Beach County general magistrate before stepping down in May to run for judge. Santino has also served as a victim advocate, and interned for the State Attorney and Public Defender offices.
The Group 15 race, which has also been marked by candidate complaints, pits West Palm Beach attorney Bradley Harper against Assistant Palm Beach County State Attorney Esther “Ettie” Feistmann. Harper, at 39, doesn’t have Feistmann’s depth of experience. But he more than makes up for it with the respect of his peers, strong work ethic and deep familial ties to this county that The Post believes will make Harper a worthy successor to retired Judge Barry Cohen.
Jdge Dina Keever
In the Circuit Court’s Group 1 race, The Post endorses Judge Dina Keever to retain her seat . She is being challenged by Wellington lawyer Robert Ostrov, who argues that his experience as an administrative law judge makes him better suited. We disagree. Keever, who was appointed in June 2015 by Scott, is a former federal prosecutor in Miami who has shown she can be fair and impartial from the bench.
The Group 4 race features three solo practitioners: West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Luis Delgado, Fort Lauderdale condominium attorney Jeremy M. Zubkoff and Boca Raton securities lawyer Gregory Tendrich. All three are admirable, but The Post endorses Tendrich. Though relatively narrow in scope, Tendrich’s demeanor and 28 years of experience in Palm Beach County courts gives him the edge.
Voters in Palm Beach County’s District 3 — now represented by term-limited Shelly Vana — should look to Dave Kerner in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.
A lawyer, former police officer and an effective two-term member of the state Legislature, Kerner has proved to be a young leader with ideas, energy, an ability to get things done and a knack for appealing to a variety of constituencies.
His opponent, software designer Drew Martin, is a dedicated environmental activist whose vigilance against over-development would be extremely valuable on the overly compliant commission. Martin would be a gadfly who would oppose raising the sales tax (he’d rather increase property taxes and charges to developers) and stand up for preserving the Agricultural Reserve.
Kerner, too, would fight to prevent the Ag Reserve’s “death by a thousand cuts,” he told the Post’s Editorial Board. But he brings something more. His eight years as a police officer in Alachua County and with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, as well as his membership on the House Judiciary Committee, are well-matched for a moment when the county commission should be getting more assertive on the frictions between law enforcement and minority communities.
“I would change the tenor and tone in the dialogue” with the Sheriff’s Office, Kerner said. “I think we desperately need a commissioner with legitimacy and intimate knowledge of law enforcement to have that dialogue. And I intend to be a leader on this issue.”
Democratic voters in District 7, where minorities represent the majority, face a tougher decision. Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who is seeking another four-year term after seven years in office, finds herself with three opponents after flirting with a run for Congress.
A former state legislator, Taylor takes pride in a record that includes directing county staff to study if minorities are getting a fair shake in county contracts; pushing for affordable housing; seeking a citizens’ review board over police shootings; and creating the Youth Services Department to improve education and employment for young minority men.
But Taylor’s standard answer to a problem is to call for a symposium or a “summit,” and constituents aren’t seeing a whole lot of results. That report on contract disparities has been taking years to complete. Little is happening with affordable housing. And Sheriff Ric Bradshaw won’t agree to a citizens’ review board. On growth issues, Taylor has often sided with developers – as critics point to an ample number of contractors and development companies on her list of campaign contributors.
It’s time for a change.
Robbie Littles, a former West Palm Beach city commissioner and longtime activist, says he would seek to aggressively remediate years of discrimination felt by minorities in county hiring, housing and policing. His proposals include starting a process to bring the sheriff, a constitutional officer, under county control.
Mack Bernard, a Haiti-born former Delray Beach city commissioner and state House member, smartly ticks off a 10-point program that would boost youth employment, minority businesses, job training, and pay a $15 minimum wage to county employees, among other things.
The best choice, however, is three-term Haverhill councilman Lawrence Gordon. A retired paralegal and insurance adjuster, Gordon is eager to help minority companies acquire the bonding needed to compete for county contracts, tighten affordable housing requirements for developers and push for livable wages. A practical problem-solver, he helped his city pass a novel sober-homes ordinance that may prove resistant to court challenges.
Palm Beach County School Board
Two years ago, The Post endorsed Tom Sutterfield, an information technology administrator at the South Florida Water Management District, for a seat on the Palm Beach County School Board.
Sutterfield, despite financial and technological savvy that would have been an asset to the board as it entered tough budget years and sought technology upgrades in the county’s schools, lost a tight District 4 race to current board member Erica Whitfield.
In the Aug. 30 primary, Sutterfield — having moved into District 1 — is now running for the seat vacated by School Board member Mike Murgio following his indictment and arrest on bribery charges. The Post again recommends Sutterfield for the School Board.
Opponent Ellen Baker, a 15-year teaching veteran in the district, believes that the School Board “needs a different voice” and that it has shortchanged its 12,000-plus teachers — who are still without a contract. She is not a fan of charter schools because of a lack of accountability. John Boggess, a retired Ohio educator, said the district must put more emphasis on improving technology to give students a “21st-century education.” And while not against charters, he does want to see better oversight to prevent failures. Both candidates would have preferred to see the district go it alone on the proposed penny sales tax increase.
Regardless, just as in 2014, it’s tough to beat Sutterfield’s qualifications. He became involved in education issues when his child’s charter school, a campus of Imagine Charter Schools, decided to end its music and arts programs. He joined the board as an unpaid member and helped save the program.
The broad perspective that comes from being a father of three school-age children in private, and public charter and choice schools can’t be understated.
An advocate of choice schools, Sutterfield said he does not support the sale tax hike but expects it will pass.
If that’s the case, The Post believes Sutterfield is best qualified among a crowded candidate field to help make sure taxpayers’ dollars are spent properly.
There are changes coming with regard to tourism, trade and cargo for South Florida’s ports. The Port of Palm Beach needs to be ready.
That requires a forward-thinking, proactive commission that will use the 156-acre port to its fullest, most effective extent to benefit a district that encompasses nearly half of Palm Beach County.
The port already is showing that it’s not willing to sit still. Ground was broken late last month on a $10.4 million mini-slip at its southernmost berth that could eventually serve as a base for cargo service to Cuba.
The project, expected to be completed by July 2017, is also being considered for possible railroad/barge service to Cuba. Port officials are in discussions with railroad companies.
Katherine Waldron, a candidate for the Group 2 seat on Aug. 30, sees that potential and raises it. “We don’t have to stop there,” she told The Post Editorial Board. “Our cruise ship revenue per acre is good, but Cuba opening up potentially offers us an opportunity to do a Cuba ferry for tourists.”
The Post endorses Waldron for the Group 2 seat because the former Sprint executive and software company founder is best qualified to not only help keep the port operating on an even keel but help it navigate its best future course.
Incumbent George E. Mastics, who is seeking a sixth four-year term, said the port is growing, developing and “doing good things.” He said he is running to “keep the port going.”
Henry Taylor, a former Riviera Beach City Council member, would like to see more visibility and cooperation in the surrounding communities — especially Riviera Beach — with an eye toward job creation.
That sentiment is echoed by Joseph Anderson, owner of J.B. Construction Inc., who envisions both Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach working with the port to maximize business growth along both cities’ Broadway corridor. He said the Port Commission should work with counterparts in the county, cities and local chambers to increase the port’s impact as a job creator.
Waldron agrees but adds that the port must also look at better use of tenant leases and foreign trade zones. Moreover, she also has the current relationships on local, state and federal levels to help make these things happen.
The Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office typically flies under the political radar for most voters. As it should.
The office, though headed by an elected official, is responsible for keeping track of the most valuable asset that most residents and businesspeople may own. The importance of that function cannot be overstated because so much of what drives this county is real-estate related.
Can residents easily find out what their property is worth? Is that information reasonably accurate, and up-to-date?
For 27 years, Dorothy Jacks has been working in the property appraiser’s office to make sure the answer to both questions is “yes” — currently as right hand to retiring Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits. To continue as one of the most effective and efficient offices in the state, the Post Editorial Board recommends Jacks in the Aug. 30 primary election. She is being challenged by County Commissioner Shelley Vana, who has a long history of public service to the county and is term-limited from running again for the commission. But Vana said she sees “so much potential for improvement in the property appraiser’s office” that she felt compelled to run again. Chief among the potential improvements is increasing the office’s accessibility so that it can more readily explain to property owners how the office arrives at specific appraisals. “They don’t call back,” she told the Editorial Board.Vana also questions whether the office has proper backup if the computer system goes down. “There needs to be an assessment to make sure,” she said.
Jacks, who conceived and designed the Property Appraiser Public Access system (PAPA), argues that it is “absolutely, properly backed up.” She said when her office looked at upgrading how quickly PAPA comes back up for public use, “it simply wasn’t cost-effective to make sure it was back up in two minutes versus maybe two days. But the information is safe and secure.”
Vana is right that being in one office for so long has the potential to get stale. But Jacks, who has begun targeting younger homebuyers with products like a mobile app for PAPA, seems to be anything but stale.
And with an office poised to see a “generational shift” over the next few years, Jacks’ stability and professional expertise will be an asset.
Carey Haughwout has led the Palm Beach County Public Defender’s Office ably for four terms.
This year, for the first time since she won the job, in 2000, she has a challenger: attorney William Abramson. The two Democrats are facing each other in the Aug. 30 primary.
Haughwout has proved herself dedicated to the difficult, workaday task of providing legal defense to the poor and indigent while attempting to tackle longstanding problems in the criminal justice system.
“There are disparity issues we need to address,” she told The Post’s Editorial Board. “We need to expand ways to keep people out of the criminal justice system, and look at the war on drugs and mass incarceration.”
Abramson, whose law practice specializes in traffic cases, allows that Haughwout is “an amazing lawyer,” but says she has fallen short in administering the 100-lawyer Public Defender’s Office. He told the Editorial Board that he would be less adversarial with the State Attorney’s Office and more effective in training the young attorneys who make up much of the Public Defender’s Office staff.
“I assure you, I have given more free advice than any private lawyer in Palm Beach County history. I promise you that,” Abramson said, adding that his knowledge is frequently sought out by other lawyers, clerk staff and judges.
Abramson’s history, however, gives us pause. In 2008, to take one example, Abramson defeated an incumbent circuit court judge at the polls, but the Florida Supreme Court blocked Abramson from assuming the bench because the court had suspended his law license for 91 days for “angry, disrespectful and obstreperous behavior,” as Florida Bar attorneys put it.
Haughwout disputes that her attorneys’ fierce advocacy in court is overly acrimonious, pointing to support from the Police Benevolent Association, which gave $1,000 to her campaign. And she has worked in concert with judges and the state attorney to examine racial inequalities in the county’s justice system.
Haughwout has taken progressive steps to reduce recidivism and to seek appropriate treatments for defendants with mental health and substance abuse problems.
The Post strongly endorses her re-election to a fifth term.
Readers of The Palm Beach Post know we are deeply concerned about shootings by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies — at least 123 of them since 2000, 45 fatal, almost all of them deemed justified. Many times, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said so himself while at the scene.
These shootings have come at a great cost to the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the community it is pledged to serve. As well as at literal great cost. Just since January, the Sheriff’s Office has paid roughly $2.2 million to settle five excessive-force lawsuits.
What is needed is a solid effort to connect with the community, more accountability, better training for officers and less of a circle-the-wagons response to public criticism.
Bradshaw, seeking a fourth term at age 68, has three challengers in the Aug. 30 nonpartisan primary: Rick “Rosco” Sessa, a former police lieutenant in Riviera Beach and frequent Bradshaw critic; Alex Freeman, a police major in Riviera Beach; and Samuel L. Thompson, a former Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy and corrections officer, and former Navy SEAL.
Among them, they promise to open the books, curtail alleged cronyism and reduce spending in the sheriff’s $590 million budget.
None has managed large organizations like Bradshaw, who was West Palm Beach police chief before taking over a flailing agency in 2004 and vastly professionalizing its procedures, technology, budgeting and culture.Under Bradshaw, the Sheriff’s Office has taken over police services for cities including Lake Worth and Greenacres, and houses a regional “fusion center” that uses advanced software to analyze homeland security threats and crime trends.
His re-election assured by dint of name recognition and a $600,000 war chest (eight times that of his rivals’, combined), Bradshaw told The Post Editorial Board he hopes to begin repairing community relations by convening meetings between officers and young people from crime-plagued neighborhoods.
“We’ve got to have a dialogue,” he said. “The violence on both sides is not going to work.”
We endorse Bradshaw for another term, hoping that he uses it to bring a fresh breath to community relations and a more judicious use of force.
It’s been 16 years since the disastrous 2000 presidential election recount that made Palm Beach County a synonym for botched elections and showed the whole world how important the mechanics of voting truly are.
Thankfully, missteps are much fewer, largely due to improvements made over the past eight years by Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher.
Bucher is seeking a third term in the Aug. 30 primary, and we believe she has earned it.
Bucher has brought in new technology, upgraded training for staff and poll workers and saved taxpayers $21.6 million over the past four years. She has emerged as a strong voice on statewide voting issues, as in questioning Secretary of State Ken Detzner over the error-riddled noncitizen voter purge he attempted in 2012.
Her opponent, Christine Spain, is a business law attorney, CPA and former chairwoman of the Broward County Republican Party. She says she would check her partisan leanings at the door of this nonpartisan office — something at which Bucher, a fierce Democrat in the state Legislature for eight years, has succeeded. But Spain says her priorities include intensive audits in search of voter fraud, a quest that’s been used repeatedly elsewhere to tamp down voting by poor people and minorities, while finding very few instances of malfeasance.
Bucher took heat this summer for deciding to abandon a voting site at a Boca Raton mosque after receiving a raft of angry messages from disconcerted voters. That was a troubling submission to fear and mob rule, in our view, but at least she made the effort to be inclusive. Spain told The Post Editorial Board that she never would have chosen the mosque in the first place because of alleged, but never verified, anti-Semitism and terrorist links.
Bucher became known in the Legislature for an almost obsessive attention to detail, reading the fine print of bills. As the county’s elections chief, she has used that close knowledge of laws and procedures to great advantage in consistently raised intelligent concerns about voter-roll security, computer testing and other technical aspects of the elections process.
All of this leads The Post to again endorse Bucher for re-election.