December 13, 2016

Broward County auditor Evan Lukic to retire


Broward County Auditor Evan Lukic announced Monday that he will retire Feb. 3 after working for the county for 29 years.

Lukic was known in County Hall as a consummate professional who put the taxpayers first and picked apart spending decisions by the county.

His reports in recent years have raised criticisms about the management of the Young at Art Museum and financial discrepancies between the companies that operate the Panthers organization as well as poor spending controls internally at the county.

While working on an audit of the county's disbursement system in 2012, Lukic raised alarm bells and told commissioners "this has to be remedied quickly, because you have little or no control now."

In his memo to County Administrator Bertha Henry announcing his retirement, Lukic wrote: "While I look forward with great anticipation to spending more time with my six grandchildren and attending to my hobbies, I feel a sense of loss at the thought of leaving my work family. I thoroughly enjoy and will surely miss the daily interaction with my own staff and so many other dedicated County employees."



December 12, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz's district director quits for government consultant job



U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's longtime district director, Jodie Bock Davidson, has taken a new job as a government consultant for Colodny Fass law firm in Sunrise.

The firm lobbies for the Broward School Board, the Florida League of Cities, Disney and several insurance clients in Tallahassee. Davidson said she will be based out of South Florida although Michael Colodny said she will also consult in Tallahassee and Washington D.C.

Davidson has worked for South Florida Democrats for two decades and joined Wasserman Schultz when she was first elected to Congress in 2004. Previously, Davidson served as deputy district director to U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and was the Florida Political Director for John Kerry for president in 2004. She also worked as a legislative aide to former state representatives Nan Rich and Ken Gottlieb.

Wasserman Schultz said in a statement: “I am deeply grateful to my outgoing District Director, Jodi Bock Davidson. Her service has extended far beyond office walls or district boundaries; she has become a pillar in the South Florida community in her own right and has served as a mentor and advisor to many. She has been an exemplary employee and true friend."

Wasserman Schultz hired Lori Green, a past president of the David Posnack Jewish Community Center, to replace Davidson. Green is a registered nurse and in the past has chaired the JCC Maccabi games and served as co-chair for the Davie/Cooper City American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

Wasserman Schultz represents a left-leaning Broward/Miami-Dade district. She resigned as Democratic National Committee chair in July.



December 05, 2016

Broward Republicans re-elect chair



Broward Republicans re-elected Bob Sutton as chair of their party in a close vote tonight.

Sutton beat Rico Petrocelli 90-85. Petrocelli was a briefly the chair in 2013 and then quit after disagreements with the board.

The task of the Broward Republican Executive Committee is to help elect Republican candidates to local, state and federal offices. Broward Republicans have represented a shrinking share of the electorate amid a rise in independent voters.

Broward now has about 600,000 Democrats, 258,000 Republicans and 330,000 independents.

Although Republicans are outnumbered in Broward, they can make a difference in statewide races since in sheer numbers they are only surpassed by a few counties. 


Broward GOP to elect chair tonight



Broward Republican activists will elect a chair tonight.

Chairman Bob Sutton is seeking re-election and will face Rico Petrocelli, who was briefly the chair in 2013 but then quit citing vague "irreconcilable differences" with the board. Petrocelli, a former Plantation council member, lost a race for Broward Soil and Water Conservation District on Nov. 8th.

Sutton faced criticism in April after he made an oral sex reference to Hillary Clinton.

"I think when Donald Trump debates Hillary Clinton she's going to go down like Monica Lewinsky," he said. Sutton quickly apologized.

Petrocelli said the party needs to be more organized before the 2018 election for governor and U.S. Senate.

"We need to harness the energy of Trump volunteers," he said.

The main challenge for the next chair of the Broward Republican Executive Committee will be to grow the party as it's share of the electorate has been shrinking in the left-leaning county. In recent years, Broward Republicans have become outnumbered by independents. The county has about 600,000 Democrats, 258,000 Republicans and about 330,000 independents.


December 03, 2016

Broward Democrats elect new chair


Broward Democrats elected Cynthia Busch as the new chair Saturday. She replaces Mitch Ceasar who served as chair for about 20 years and didn't run for re-election.

Busch won with 297 votes while Christine Jones got 63 votes. Grace Carrington was elected unopposed as state committeewoman while Ken Evans was re-elected state committeeman with 272 votes while Thad Hamilton got 66 votes.

Carrington and Evans will have a powerful voice in the election of the next Florida Democratic Party chair in January. Committemen and women vote for state party chair according to a formula based on the number of registered Democrats in each county. Broward County has about 600,000 Democrats, the highest in the state.

Miami-Dade Democrats elect their leaders Tuesday.

November 29, 2016

Broward Democrats to elect leaders who will help pick next Florida Democratic Party chair


Broward Democrats will elect their own leaders Saturday including some who will play a key role in selecting the next Florida Democratic Party chair.

About 600 Democratic activists who represent precincts across the county will gather at the Signature Grand hotel in Davie Saturday afternoon to elect a chair, state committeeman and state committee woman and other representatives.

The state committeeman and committee woman elect the state chair based on a formula that gives weight to the number of registered Democratic voters in each county which means that Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach are the key decision-makers. After Broward Democrats elect the committeeman and woman, these county leaders will get lobbied by the long list of candidates vying for state chair to replace Allison Tant in January.

Broward state committeeman Ken Evans will run to keep his position and faces Thaddeus Hamilton, who lost a race against Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam in 2014. Evans has been endorsed by several politicians including local members of Congress Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch.

Grace Carrington, a Democratic leader in Coral Springs, is running for state committee woman.

Mitch Ceasar, who has been Broward chair for about two decades, isn't seeking re-election. In 2015, he stepped aside while running for Clerk of Courts, handing off the leadership to vice chair Cynthia Busch. (Ceasar briefly returned to the chair post after losing his primary.)

Busch appears to be the favored candidate in the chair race against vice chair Christine Jones

Since Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton, Busch says interest has spiked in volunteering for the county party.

"People are really really angry," she said. "We need to channel that constructively and work toward maintaining what we have and making sure we don't lose ground in this off-year."

Broward has about 600,000 registered Democrats -- the highest contingent in the state but it often lags behind the statewide average in turnout, particularly in years when presidential candidates aren't on the ballot.

Busch doesn't get a vote for state party chair but she says one of the candidates called her so far: Stephen Bittel, a prominent Coconut Grove fundraiser and developer. Bittel told the Miami Herald on Nov. 14th that he "might" be interested in the chair position. He could not be reached Monday or Tuesday.

Bittel isn't a Miami-Dade precinct committeeman, a prerequisite to run for state chair but he has said that the party can figure out a way to make it happen. Miami-Dade Democrats hold their election Dec. 6th.

In Miami-Dade, the current chair Sen. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay told the Miami Herald that he will run for vice chair for the county -- that allows him to avoid the competitive six-way race for county chair. Bullard, who lost to Republican State Rep. Frank Artiles Nov. 8, said that he will then run for state chair.

Susannah Randolph, former district director for U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, is also running for state chair. Alan Clendenin, the Tampa activist who lost to Tant told Naked Politics that he will decide no earlier than Dec. 15th about whether to run for state chair. 





November 21, 2016

Oscar Braynon, Lauren Book named Florida Senate Democrats' top leaders



A longtime legislator from Miami Gardens will lead the Democrats of the Florida Senate for the next two years.

Sen. Oscar Braynon’s ascension to Senate minority leader was made official Monday evening in advance of Tuesday’s organizational session for the 2016-18 Legislature. He’s now in charge of a 15-member Democratic caucus, of which 11 are newly elected senators.

“I’m happy to be taking on that role,” Braynon said. “We’re going to have a bunch of blank slates when it comes to what happens in the Senate. There’s a lot of potential there.”

One of those newcomers is freshman Broward County Sen. Lauren Book, whom the Democratic caucus also unanimously elected as Braynon’s No. 2 in the role of Senate Democratic leader pro tempore.

Book, of Plantation, is a prominent advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse and the founder and CEO of Aventura-based Lauren’s Kids. She is also the daughter of powerful Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book, whom she called “her best friend, rock and mentor.”

Although the Republican majority in the Senate will drive the agenda, Braynon said his goal as minority leader is to continue pushing for Democratic priorities, such as equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage, protecting the environment, improving access to health care and strengthening public education.

Read more.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

DuBose, Farmer named leaders of Broward County legislative delegation


A state representative entering his second term and a freshman senator in his first elected office have been named the leaders for Broward County's legislative delegation for the 2017 session.

State Rep. Bobby DuBose and state Sen. Gary Farmer, both Democrats from Fort Lauderdale, were elected as chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, by the 19-member delegation on Thursday.

The delegation's chairmen and vice-chairmen serve one-year terms.

DuBose was first elected to the Legislature in 2014 and was reelected this year without opposition.

Farmer is a consumer advocate attorney and former president of the Florida Justice Association. He won Broward County's District 34 Senate seat with 63 percent of the vote.

DuBose and Farmer, respectively, replace former Democratic state Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed and Sen. Chris Smith.

November 17, 2016

Fort Lauderdale mayor Jack Seiler said he will decide about state run in 2017



Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler will make a decision next year about whether to run for statewide office.

"I am still considering a run for statewide office in 2018, and I am especially interested in the Attorney General position," he told the Miami Herald in an email. "I will make a decision in 2017."

Attorney General Pam Bondi can't run again due to term limits and she could end up leaving her position early if she gets hired by Donald Trump's administration.

Seiler, a lawyer and Democrat, was re-elected to the mayor position in 2015. He formerly served as a state representative and mayor of Wilton Manors. He has never lost a race.

Seiler has said if he runs statewide he will run as a moderate. But if he faces a contested Democratic primary, he could face criticism for his stance on same sex marriage. Seiler, a married Catholic and father of four children, tried to stay on the sidelines of the same sex marriage debate. In 2014, he voted against a city resolution in support of same sex marriage but when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2015 Seiler signed a city proclamation celebrating the decision.


November 14, 2016

Dwight Bullard's position on Israel could cost him support of Jewish Democrats for state party chair



Sen. Dwight Bullard, who wants to run for Florida Democratic Party chair, is facing resistance from some Jewish Democrats after he was accused of meeting with a man linked to a terror group in Israel earlier this year. 

Bullard says that the accusation lacked “merit” and that he is a supporter of the Jewish community.

Bullard is one of multiple  candidates who are considering the state party position after Allison Tant announced Friday that she would not seek re-election in January. That could set off an intraparty fight about who would be the best person to lead the Democrats after it suffered crushing defeats including Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in Florida.

The Bullard name is a longtime fixture in Miami-Dade politics because both of his parents served in the state Legislature. But he could face an uphill battle for state party chair due to his position on Israel.

A political committee for Florida Senate Republicans ran an ad this summer accusing Bullard of spending time with a "terrorist" during a trip to the Middle East.

NBC6 Miami reported that Bullard was photographed with a tour guide affiliated with the anti-Israel BDS movement, a pro-Palestinian group with ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, designated by the State Department as a terrorist group.

Bullard told the station the man was a "tour guide in old Jerusalem" and he "had no idea" of his political affiliations.

He told NBC6 that he is "pro-Israel, but I'm also pro-Palestine in that people can co-exist. ... My position is co-existence."

Bullard also faced heat for his vote in October 2015 against a bill that would ban the state of Florida from entering contracts with companies that boycott Israel. But when it reached the full Senate in January he voted for it and it passed unanimously.

“A number of folks called me concerned over my committee vote,” he told the Miami Herald. “For the sake of not being the thorn in anyone’s side I decided to vote for it on the floor.”

He told the Miami Herald that he shared the same concerns as the ACLU of Florida which wrote in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott that the bill “is a clear violation of of long established First Amendment law.” The ACLU urged Scott to veto the bill but he signed it into law.

Bullard told Colorlines, an online news site about race and culture, that boycotts are protected free speech: "We look back now in hindsight and say, '[Fighting] for the boycott and divestment movement against the South African government was the right thing to do.' How that is somehow different as it pertains to Palestinian rights is really inexplicable."

Fort Lauderdale lawyer Mike Moskowitz, who raised $1 million for Clinton and is a frequent contributor to Democrats, said he will actively work against Bullard if he runs for chair and will call activists and members of Congress to urge them to oppose Bullard.

“I will discontinue all financial support if he becomes the chair; and will call around to all financial donors in the entire state and ask that they commit to do the same,” he said.

Former state Sen. Steve Geller, who was elected to the Broward County Commission Nov. 8, said Jewish Democrats won’t support Bullard.

“I think he is just wrong on this issue,” he said. “Did the Republicans take it a little too far? Yes. Do I think Dwight is a terrorist? Not at all."

But Geller said that Bullard should have disassociated himself with the anti-Israel BDS group.

Geller and Moskowitz don’t get to vote on the chair position -- that decision lies with state committeemen and women in January. But those who have a vote are likely to listen to input from prominent fundraisers and elected officials who could play a role in the 2018 races for governor and U.S. Senate. Committeemen and women in South Florida play a major role in selecting the chair because they get votes based on a formula that takes into account the number of registered Democrats in their county.

Bullard told the Miami Herald that he will seek re-election as county party chair Dec. 6th and then run for state chair.

He said that Jewish Democrats should not be swayed by the attack on him about his Middle East trip.

“I would hope they would hear me out and not fall victim to a political smear campaign that has no merit,” he said.  “I never met with a terrorist. Did I take a trip to Israel and the West Bank? Absolutely. The notion that I am anti-Israel and pro-terrorism, that was all orchestrated unfortunately by my opponent. I’ve never been any of those things. I continue to be a strong supporting of the Jewish community.”

Bullard lost his state senate race to Republican State Rep. Frank Artiles in a heavily Hispanic Miami-Dade district. The attack ad about Bullard’s trip to Israel was in Spanish.

Evan Ross, a member of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and a political consultant who is Jewish, also raised concerns about Bullard.

“Having a party chair who supports BDS and speaks out against Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state would do irreparable harm to the relationship with the more than two-thirds of Jewish Floridians that consistently support Democrats,” Ross said. “We need a chair who will unite people at this critical time for our party, state and nation.”

Democratic activists do not appear to have coalesced around any single candidate so far for chair and many of them have lost previous races including Annette Taddeo, who most recently lost a Miami-Dade primary for Congress; Alan Clendenin, who lost to Tant in 2013 and recently lost a bid for a Hillsborough County School Board seat and former state Sen. Dan Gelber who lost a race for attorney general against Pam Bondi in 2010.

Photo by the Associated Press