The Democratic primary battle for a Palm Beach County Senate seat has it all: big money, a TV ad war, an overheated rumor mill and the candidacy of Irv "Let Irv Serve" Slosberg.
He's an idiosyncratic House member from Boca Raton doing something you seldom see in Florida: challenging a sitting senator in his own party, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, in a race where both candidates must learn new territory that they have not represented due to a court-ordered remapping of Senate districts. The winner of the Senate District 31 race on Aug. 30 gets a four-year ticket back to Tallahassee, and if Clemens wins, he would be the Senate Democratic leader in 2018.
Slosberg, 68, a traffic safety and seat-belt champion, did not live in the district when he changed course and declared his candidacy an hour before the June 24 deadline. He has since poured an astonishing $730,000 of his own money into his campaign for a job that pays $29,697 a year. By spending his own money, Slosberg says, "I owe no one any favors." He calls Clemens "a ghost" who's unknown to many district voters.
Clemens, 45, has endorsements from 19 House Democrats and says Slosberg has none -- sufficient proof, he says, that Slosberg won't be able to get anything done in a Senate that is built on collegiality. "He's a one-issue legislator who doesn't have the respect of his colleagues," Clemens says.
Slosberg is a familiar presence on West Palm Beach TV stations and has budgeted about twice as much TV time as Clemens.
The district is dominated by Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Lake Worth and is generally east of Florida's Turnpike. The two major daily newspapers in the district, The Palm Beach Post and Sun-Sentinel, both have endorsed Clemens, and the Sun-Sentinel described Slosberg as poorly informed on water quality issues, a topic of growing concern to district voters. "Clemens is the better candidate," the Sun-Sentinel said.
"I'm going to win," Slosberg told the Times/Herald. Clemens acknowledged that an early poll showed him trailing but he too confidently predicted victory in a low-turnout primary. "We feel good," Clemens said.