October 10, 2015

Robert Lance Andrews, colorful Broward judge, is dead at 74

Robert Lance Andrews, whose biting wit and flair for high-profile and controversial cases made him a fixture in Broward County's court system for three decades, died Friday. He was 74.

After a 30-year career on the bench, Andrews suffered a stroke in 2008 and retired, a year after his wife Carole, a member of the Broward school board, died of cancer. He remarried and moved to Texas, and was living with a son in Georgia at the time of his death.

Andrews' colorful and outside-the-box approach first drew national attention in 1982 when he offered a long-time Fort Lauderdale prostitute a stark choice: five years in prison or a one-way ticket to California.

The woman went to Santa Monica, where she was quickly arrested for prostitution, and the police chief there sent an alleged sex offender to South Florida as payback. "We owed a few to Florida," the chief said.

During South Florida's epidemic of cocaine use in the '80s, Andrews struck down Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro's policy of random searches of bus passengers for drugs.

"This is not Hitler's Berlin, nor Stalin's Moscow," Andrews wrote in an opinion cited approvingly by the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld his decision.    

Andrews once ruled that a Plantation couple could keep their two overweight dogs, even though their condo association had a weight limit on pets, because the couple had been denied a right to a hearing. In a historic preservation case that dragged on for years, he ruled that a developer could build a 42-story condo tower next to downtown Fort Lauderdale's iconic Stranahan House, the home of the city's pioneer settlers. 

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October 05, 2015

Former Broward emergency manager Chuck Lanza to run against former state Sen. Steve Geller for County Commission

Former state Sen. Steve Geller will face a challenge from the former Broward Emergency Management director Chuck Lanza for a Broward County Commission seat in 2016.

The race will create a rare partisan battle on the left-leaning County Commission: Lanza is a Republican while Geller is a Democrat. Currently the lone Republican on the County Commission is Chip LaMarca who ousted Democrat Ken Keechl in 2010 and fended off a rematch in 2014.

Lanza announced his candidacy in a press release and said he will officially file his paperwork Tuesday morning at the county’s elections office. The District 5 seat is currently held by Lois Wexler who is retiring. Both Lanza and Geller live in Cooper City -- a city within the district.

When Geller was contacted by the Miami Herald to ask his thoughts on Lanza running against him he replied: “Who is that?”

Geller was unaware that he would face an opponent.

Lanza left his position as the Emergency Manager for Broward County in 2014 and has been consulting since then -- he currently consults for the city of Dania Beach. He previously served as emergency manager for Miami-Dade counties as well as the fire chief for the Broward Sheriff's Office and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  

Lanza told the Herald that he had wanted to enter politics for many years but didn’t because of the jobs he held.

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October 01, 2015

Davie police say they will provide security at Hillary Clinton event - but not as much as Secret Service asked for

Davie police will provide some security for Hillary Clinton’s visit to Broward College Friday but not the amount of personnel that the Secret Service asked for, a Secret Service spokesman told the Miami Herald Thursday.

The New York Times reported earlier today that Davie police refused to provide security.

From the Times: “An assistant police chief who attended an interagency meeting to prepare for the visit announced the news that the city would not provide security. The Secret Service officials who were at the meeting did not take it well, and promised to name names about the episode if ever called before Congress, according to one of the people at the meeting, who was not authorized to discuss the private session.”

William Cachinero, an assistant special agent in charge of the Miami field office for the Secret Service, said that the Secret Service asked Davie police if they could supplement security. Clinton already gets Secret Service protection since she is a former First Lady but the Secret Service wanted extra protection for her public campaign organizational meeting at Broward College in Friday afternoon.

The Davie police “said they would not be able to have the bodies that we required, they will have people there but not in amount we wanted,” Cachinero said. He said he didn’t have any specific numbers to give the Miami Herald regarding the number of personnel the Secret Service wanted Davie to provide compared to what the police department will actually provide.

The Secret Service had already asked the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Broward College to also provide security -- and both will, he said. Nearby Florida Atlantic University will also provide security.

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September 29, 2015

UPDATED Florida state senator from Broward wants Joe Biden for president

@PatriciaMazzei

State Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate has a favorite presidential candidate: Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden hasn't decided if he's running. But a political committee hoping he will, Draft Biden, touted Ring's endorsement in a statement Tuesday listing Democratic Party "leaders" who back the VP.

"I, like countless other Americans, share our profound hope that Vice President Biden chooses to run for President," Ring said in the statement.

"In his 35 plus years in public office, the Vice President has shown great political and individual strength. He has never wavered far from his working class roots and progressive beliefs. The Vice President has proven that he is the most experienced, approachable, and sincere candidate to lead the free world. I am proud to support Joe Biden as the next President of the United States."

UPDATE: Ring told the Miami Herald in a telephone interview that his Biden endorsement has been in the works for a while, given that the state senator was an early Biden supporter in 2008. Ring is also friends with the vice president's brother Frank, who lives in Palm Beach County.

Ring praised Biden's experience and noted that the Draft Biden effort is essentially a campaign in waiting -- and "no one has told them to stop."

"The vice president just inspires me -- his strength after personal tragedy, but also that whenever there's been gridlock in Washington, it's the vice-president that works with Republicans," Ring said. "He speaks from his heart. His lines don't sound poll-tested and rehearsed. Sometimes that leads to gaffes, but I'll take gaffes over someone who's not genuine, who's robotic."

Hillary Clinton and Republicans like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ring added, are struggling because they don't sound real enough.

"Bernie Sanders, who I don't think is electable in the general election, has at least demonstrated that people are hungry for an alternative" in the Democratic primary, Ring said. "I'm certainly not a Donald Trump supporter by any means, but he is resonating, and he's resonating because he's not coming off as a robot."

September 27, 2015

Hillary Clinton heads to Broward College

@PatriciaMazzei

Hillary Clinton will swing by Broward College at 2:30 p.m. Friday for a "grassroots organizing meeting," her campaign said Sunday. Blue Broward, of course, is the heart of Florida Democratic politics.

The Democrat will be in South Florida for three big-money fundraisers. Her campaign had said the candidate would hold a public event in Fort Lauderdale; it will actually take place in Davie, at Broward College's Hugh Adams Central Campus B. George Mayer Gymnasium.

"During the event, Clinton will lay out the case for her campaign and directly ask supporters to get involve," the campaign said in an advisory to reporters.

Members of the public can sign up to attend here.

September 25, 2015

Broward Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes won't say whether she is seeking final term

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes who filed for re-election Monday isn’t ready to say yet if she wins if this will be her last term.

Snipes, a Democrat, told the Miami Herald today that before she leaves office she wants to implement prepaid absentee ballots which will begin in 2016 and online voter registration which the state Legislature determined won’t start until 2017.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner attempted to thwart online voter registration and claimed that it could lead to "forces of evil" disrupting the 2016 presidential election but Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law.

In 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Snipes to replace Miriam Oliphant after she botched the 2002 primary. Snipes then went on to win her next three elections easily.

Snipes, of Lauderdale Lakes, will face Hollywood political consultant and Democrat David Brown who lost a race for the supervisor’s position in 2000. He has raised about $15,000.Two other Democrats filed to run in July but have raised no money: Rubin Young and Willie Floyd Roberson. (No Republicans have filed to run in the left-leaning county.)

Snipes has had a contentious relationship with the Broward County Commissioners who fund her office. Voters can expect Brown to criticize Snipes for some of those problems she has had with commissioners including criticism she faced after her contract attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, donated money to a county commission candidate who ultimately lost.

Snipes asked the Florida Bar for an opinion regarding whether a contract attorney can give money to candidates. The Florida Bar told the Miami Herald that any such query is confidential and would not provide any information about it. However Snipes said that the Bar told her that there was nothing in state law that prohibited Norris-Weeks from donating to candidates.

Asked if she plans to change any of her office rules as a result of the Florida Bar’s advice, Snipes said “I haven’t made any flat decisions. Burnadette and I did talk about it. I don’t think she will be making those contributions to whomever she may have contributed to before.”

September 22, 2015

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes files for re-election

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes filed for re-election Monday and will face other Democratic challengers.

Snipes, a Lauderdale Lakes resident, told the Miami Herald in April that she planned to run in 2016 but that wasn’t official until she submitted the paperwork which allows her to start fundraising.

In 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush removed Miriam Oliphant from office after she botched the 2002 primary. Bush appointed Snipes who then went on win her next three elections easily.

Snipes will face Hollywood political consultant and Democrat David Brown who lost a race for the supervisor’s position in 2000. He has raised about $15,000.Two other Democrats filed to run in July but have raised no money: Rubin Young and Willie Floyd Roberson. (No Republicans have filed to run in the left-leaning county.)

Snipes has had a contentious relationship with the Broward County Commissioners who fund her office. Voters can expect Brown to criticize Snipes for some of those problems she has had with commissioners including criticism she faced after her contract attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, donated money to a county commission candidate who ultimately lost.

September 09, 2015

Sen. Chris Smith to run for Broward County Commission

State Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, will take on Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness in what will be the most competitive race for a seat on the nine-member board.

Smith, who faces term limits next year, filed his paperwork to run this week. He faces the unusual challenge of running against someone with a similar name on the ballot.

Christopher Lavon Smith -- the senator -- will face Robert D. “Chris” Smith in the Democratic primary along with candidates Milagro Canizares and McKinley Williams. The black majority district is overwhelmingly Democratic -- no Republicans have filed.

“Last time I beat a Chris Smith,” said senator Smith referring to his 2012 victory over Christopher Chris Smithmyer. “I’ve beaten Chris Smiths before.”

As longtime elected officials in Broward, both Holness and Smith are well-known in the district and will be able to rake in a lot of donations from those who do business with the county.

Holness has raised about $125,000 while the other candidates have not listed any donations so far.

Holness, a former Lauderhill city commissioner who now lives in Plantation, won his county seat in 2010 after Commissioner Joe Eggelletion was convicted of corruption. (Remember the money in the golf bag?) Holness was the first Jamaican-born person elected to the county commission and is a real estate agent and mortgage broker.

Smith, a lawyer, served in the state house for eight years and now faces term limits in the senate next year.

Many former state legislators have won seats on the Broward County Commission. Next year, former state senators Nan Rich and Steve Geller -- both Democrats -- are also running for separate seats.

District 9 spans parts of several cities including Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, Sunrise, Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, Tamarac, Oakland Park and North Lauderdale.

September 02, 2015

Protesters expected at Joe Biden meeting about Iran at Davie JCC

Activists protesting the Iran deal are expected outside a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and Jewish leaders in Broward Thursday morning.

Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, helped arrange the meeting which will take place at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie. She is undecided about how she will vote on the Iran deal later this month.

Only a portion of the event will be open to the press -- likely statements by Biden and Wasserman Schultz and it’s unclear if they will take questions.

The protest is being led by Americans United Against the Deal, a group of activists who oppose the deal.

On Wednesday, Biden will give a speech about higher education at Miami Dade College and attend a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at the home of Stephen Bittel in Coconut Grove.

September 01, 2015

Will Senator Eleanor Sobel run for Hollywood mayor?

Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober recently announced that he won’t seek re-election next year, fueling speculation that potential candidates include Democratic state Sen. Eleanor Sobel.

Sobel says she will delay a decision about whether to run until March.

(Hat tip to browardbeat.com for posting Bober’s letter and the gossip about Sobel.)

Sobel would be a strong candidate for mayor because of her long ties to the city where she lives and once served as a city commissioner. Sobel is well-known among voters because she also served in the state House, Broward school board and now the senate.

But Sobel is no shoe-in for the Nov. 8, 2016 election.

City Commissioner Patty Asseff, a realtor, told Naked Politics that she will run for the open seat. Technically the race is non-partisan but it will end up with some partisan undertones if Asseff runs against Sobel. Asseff's chancs can't be dismissed in this left-leaning city because she has support in her district after winning it twice in a row and has been outspoken about preparing her city for climate change which could draw her some Democratic voters.  

In a press release, Sobel was vague about her future political intentions:

“I have been receiving a number of inquiries about this seat.  Given my love for Hollywood, my years of service to this community and the fact that I am term-limited from the State Senate, I certainly understand the inquiries. However, given my work as a Chair of a vital Senate committee and the critical nature of the upcoming special session, I am forestalling any decision until after the legislative session is completed in March.”

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