A Look at the Candidates for County Office at the Voters Coalition

The May Voter’s Coalition Meeting at the South County Civic Center featured a forum for candidates in five of the seven County Constitutional Offices. Not included was Public Defender as Carey Haughwout was unopposed, and Clerk Sharon Bock was out of town.


Sheriff Ric Bradshaw was conspicuously absent, having given the excuse that his wife was receiving an award that day and that took priority. The other Sheriff candidates elected to speak anyway, rather than postpone their appearances, and event organizers may try to reschedule this forum at a later date when the Sheriff isn’t so busy.

Candidate Joe Talley described his prior service as a Major in the Baltimore County Police Department – a fair and ethical work environment, implying that PBSO today is lacking in those qualities. He promised to “turn the light on” in the sheriff’s office bringing a new level of transparency to the budget and a personnel system based on merit rather than political connections. Calling for Inspector General jurisdiction over the agency, he would give her an office to use inside PBSO.

Samuel Thompson, a former Navy Seal and PBSO deputy, also raised the issue of corruption within PBSO. Mr. Thompson was instrumental in bringing an independent union to the agency and became its president. He suggested he was terminated for that reason. Mr. Thompson is very versed in some of the issues facing PBSO employees, particularly the stress put on those in corrections.

Cleamond Lee Walker, in his second bid to unseat Sheriff Bradshaw, listed the growth and size of the Sheriff’s budget as a real problem facing the county. He believes the agency is top-heavy and would like to have fewer executives and more deputies.

During the Q&A, an unidentified woman blasted Joe Talley for suggesting that the PBSO budget was not transparent. “It is right there on the PBSO website”, she said. This was a surprise – as a project in TAB, we obtained the Sheriff’s line item budget through a chapter 119 request and several months of waiting in 2010. Unlike Martin County, the PBSO detailed budget is assuredly NOT on the PBSO website. However, we looked today and found that there is now a budget section: Click Here This page has the top level summary similar to what is delivered to the county staff each year for corrections, law enforcement and courts, but it is certainly not a detailed budget. Nevertheless, it is an improvement over previous years and maybe a step in the right direction.

Given the serious ethical and management issues being raised by all three of these candidates against the agency during the eight years of Ric Bradshaw’s tenure, we hope the Sheriff will come forward and answer them in the near future.

Tax Collector

Pete Carney, who served as Tax Collector in a six month appointment, promised to bring transparency and budget restraint to the office, and pointed out some perceived problems with the current operation. Incumbent Anne Gannon gave the current statistics on wait time at the various offices, explained the progress being made with the phone system, and generally defended her tenure well. With all the changes in this office lately, such as absorbing the drivers license function from the state, it looks like there will be a lot to talk about.

Property Appraiser

Challenger Robert Weinroth suggested more work should be done on preventing homestead exemption fraud and would invite in the Inspector General. He did admit in answer to a question that he has no experience in property appraisal, but cast himself as a leader, not a technocrat.

Incumbent Gary Nikolits explained the workings of his office and his 38 years experience in the appraisal field. Accuracy and fairness has been his goal and he has tried to keep politics out of the process. On homestead fraud he explained that it was much more a problem in Broward than here as PBC requires more documentation.

State Attorney

The three candidates for state attorney bring different strengths to the campaign.

Bob Aronberg, until last week unchallenged in the race, was a Democrat State Senator, and worked for the current Republican Attorney General. His background and achievements are more in the political realm than in the courtroom. He claims success attacking businesses – taking on pharmaceutical companies, moving companies, insurance companies, etc. and protecting “seniors and holocaust survivors” – a well suited story for this room. He would use student loan forgiveness as a recruiting tool for young attorneys.

Republican attorney Dina Keever has considerable litigation experience as a federal prosecutor, and believes ethics are an important part of the job. She believes that the State Attorney should set an ethical example for the rest of the county and the office should be above reproach. Dina does not see this job as a stepping stone to bigger things and is not a politician.

Independent Attorney Robert Gershman claims to be the best prepared for the job of the three, having worked in the State Attorney’s office. He demonstrated in depth understanding of components of the office, and promised to make it “the best law firm in the county”. When a question was asked about mandatory minimum sentencing, Aronberg said it was a “legislative thing”, Keever gave her view of its application, but Gershman really nailed it – “it is prosecutorial discretion” he said. “The minimum sentence is not set by the legislature, it is set by whatever charges the prosecutor decides to bring.” That level of insight set him apart from the others in my opinion. This race is one to watch.

Supervisor of Elections

Challenger Woodie McDuffie, current Mayor of Delray and IT chief in the Property Appraisor’s office, asked us “Why can’t the Supervisor’s office get it right?” From the butterfly ballot to the recent Wellington fiasco, three consecutive supervisors have had problems running trouble-free elections. In IT, he said there are two results – perfection and unacceptable.

Incumbent Susan Bucher defended her office, disclaiming all responsibility for the Wellington mess and pointed out that neither her office or the state could reproduce the problem. (Is that supposed to give us confidence in the next election???). The software is known to be hard to use she said – the vendor has admitted that. Her office has been under attack lately, with low ratings from the state and other issues and she gave a credible defense. It was a defense though and sounded like it, and this race may be difficult for the Susan Bucher.

Other candidates who introduced themselves at the start of the meeting included Lowell Levine and Christine Jax (School Board district 1), Paul Tocker, Mary Lou Berger and Rick Neuhoff (County Commission district 5), Steve Perman (House district 81), Maria Sachs (Senate district 32), Joe Abruzzo (Senate district 25), and judge candidates Jamie Goodman (15/9), Tim McCarthy and Jody Lane (15/2), James Martz (15/26), Ed Garrison and Jane Sullivan (county 6), and Peter Evans (county 4).

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