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.
However LaMarca’s coastal District 4, although it leans to the left, has more registered Republicans than the district where Lanza will run.
In District 5, about 45 percent of the registered voters are Democrats while the rest are split between Republicans and those with no party affiliation.
“If you look at Democratic performance in the district it’s a solidly Democratic district,” Geller said. “It voted for Charlie Crist, it voted for Barack Obama.”
Lanza criticized Geller as a career politician who he said is “always looking for a job.” After reaching term limits in the state, Senate Geller ran against Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger in 2010 and lost in what was known as one of the most contentious county races at the time. He then served as adviser to Crist’s unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2014.
“I think we need to look at newer brighter faces as opposed lifelong politicians filling all our vacant positions,” Lanza said.
Lanza will likely draw some of his support from the law enforcement community. The largest law enforcement agency is the Broward Sheriff’s Office where Lanza onced worked as the fire chief. However with Democratic Sheriff Scott Israel also on the ballot, some BSO employees may be reluctant to publicly support Lanza.
However, Geller already has racked up some key law enforcement endorsements including by Israel, the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, the Broward County Council International Association of Firefighters and the Broward AFL-CIO. (BSO employees recently voted to ditch the PBA for another union.)
Geller's strength is his name recognition in the district and ability to fundraise.
Geller, a lawyer at Greenspoon Marder, has raised $56,000. Geller said that his new total haul through September is about $98,000 and in total he has spent under $5,000.