South Florida 912 Leader’s Picks – August 2012 Election
Disclaimer: These election selections are the personal choices of the South Florida 912 leadership team, not an endorsement by the organization. Many members have asked for such a guide, as an aid to their own research. As such, we are asking you to look at our picks, read our rationale, then choose for yourself.
For an in-depth look at all the candidates, use our Online Voters Guide
|Republican Primary Race|
|Congressional District 18||Allen West||We have remained neutral in the partisan primary races with this one exception. Allen West has been a favored candidate of the South Florida 912 since its origin in 2009, and many of us worked on his initial 2008 campaign. Washington is broken and Congressman West represents a new breed of leader who approaches the problem in a strategic way, solidly grounded in the principles on which our country was founded. While the redistricting that turned his district into hostile territory is seen by some as an attempt by status quo Republicans in Tallahassee to silence this change agent, his move to CD18 offers the opportunity to continue the fight. His primary opponent, Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder considers himself as the alternative to the “carpetbagger” from Broward who “knows District 18”. Given his support for Alex Sink in 2010 and limited understanding of Obamacare as one of the most significant threats to our Founder’s concept of limited government, he is a poor alternative. With the national Democrats pulling out all the stops to defeat Allen West in November, Sheriff Crowder should put aside his ego and join us in the trenches.|
|We have stayed neutral on the other Partisan races. See below.|
|Non-Partisan and Open Primary Races|
|County Sheriff||Joe Talley||As in the Presidential election, this race is a referendum on the incumbent. Putting aside the fact that there should be term limits for all elected office including this one, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, in his 8 years, has made a name for himself beyond the county for his approaches to gangs, pill mills, homeland security and other law enforcement initiatives. He has also grown the PBSO budget 77% in that time, without full public disclosure, resisted calls for Inspector General oversight, and has not addressed the the allegations brought by Mr. Talley and others of unfairness in personnel decisions, nepotism, and awarding vendor contracts to political supporters.Joe Talley, a 22 year veteran of the Baltimore County Police and 5 years with the PBSO reserves is a qualified law enforcement professional who has committed to fixing these problems, including inviting in the IG and posting the budget on the internet. The third challenger, Cleamond Walker, agrees with Mr. Talley on many of these points, but lacks the extensive experience needed to manage the sprawling 4000 person agency with a half billion dollar budget. We think it is time for new leadership at PBSO, and Joe Talley is our choice.|
|Clerk and Comptroller||Sharon Bock||Incumbent Sharon Bock has been Clerk and Comptroller for eight years, following 5 years as a manager in that office and 25 years in the private sector as financial consultant, attorney, and small business owner. Her office operates smoothly and we have found her accessible and helpful to county residents. Her stewardship of the county’s investable assests has generated superior returns compared to peer counties (although with more risk). On the downside, she has hampered the office of Inspector General by witholding the municipal funds pending the outcome of the city’s lawsuit – a position not clearly acknowledged as necessary. Her opponent, Lisa Epstein is a former nurse and foreclosure fraud activist who would like to utilize the position of Clerk to investigate and punish the banks and other wrongdoers she sees. Pretty easy choice on this one.|
|Property Appraiser||Gary Nikolits||Determination of fair, impartial and accurate property valuation is an essential function of county government. While the policy issues of tax rates and spending are in the political domain of the County Commmission, the base against which the taxes are levied is determined by the non-partisan office of Property Appraiser. Over the last 20 years and 5 election cycles, Gary Nikolits has managed that office with professionalism and excellence, as befitting his extensive credentials and experience in the field. Valuations have been based on sound methodology and immune to political influence, a fact not overly appreciated by some commissioners. The challenger in this race, Robert Weinroth, is an attorney and owner of a medical supply company with no technical expertise in appraisel or real estate. The main rationale for his candidacy seems to be that the incumbent has been in office for too long and it is time for a change. We disagree.|
|Supervisor of Elections||Woodie McDuffie||Challenger Woodie McDuffie has made this race about competence. After the Wellington fiasco, when the losers of the council race were mistakenly certified as the winners, he points to multiple technical problems in the SOE office and offers his background as an IT professional at Burroughs and more recently with the Property Appraiser’s office as a solution to the problem. For her part, Susan Bucher makes a credible defense, laying blame on the vendor and the state officials responsible for certifying the equipment. For us however, the major issue is ideological zeal. Ms. Bucher believes her mission is to increase voter registration, oppose efforts by the Governor to clean up the voter rolls, and champion the voting rights of minorities which she claims have been compromised by the Republican Legislature. This partisanship has no place in the SOE office and it is time for a change. The third candidate in the race Caneste Succe is a former outreach coordinator for the SOE. So far he has not made a strong case for his candidacy.|
|School Board District 1||
|The School Board is the policy making body for a sprawling district with over 20,000 employees and a budget of $2.3B. As with anything that size, there are multiple interest groups with their own agendas, such as the Superintendent and his staff, the teachers, the custodial and office employees, the vendors, the federal and state government, and of course the taxpayers. A good policy maker should walk among these groups with the big picture in mind. One candidate, Christine Jax, may have this skill. She is an educational policy expert with serious experience as the Minnesota Commissioner of Education, and a published thought leader, yet independent of local influence. Of the others, former principal Michael Murgio has excellent credentials, but his support comes primarily from within the system. Michael Howard has been a single issue activist, although an effective one. Substitute teacher Robert Bittenbinder and real estate broker Lowell Levine are too far removed from the key issues of school policy to be immediately effective. Only Christine Jax, in our view, could bring fresh ideas to a system that needs fresh thinking and an independent hand. She is also the only one of the candidates that is solidly behind high stakes testing as a useful metric.|
|15th Circuit Judge Group 2||Timothy McCarthy||Judicial elections for sitting judges are serious matters. After a career on the bench, a judge often retires and becomes a Supreme Court apppointed “Senior Judge”, on call to step into the courtroom when needed. Judges who lose re-election are not so appointed and it marks the end for them. As has been pointed out, 70% of circuit court judges are appointed, and the Governor draws from a pool that has been pre-screened by a Judicial Nominating Commission. An appointment to replace a sitting judge who reaches the age limit would thus be an acceptable outcome in our view. Barring any allegations of misconduct, a judge challenged on only an age-retirement basis should be retained. Although Judge McCarthy has drawn criticism from attorneys for his demeanor, he acknowledges the problem and the challenger has not raised the issue. Therefore we reject the rationale for the challenge by Jody Lane and support Judge Timothy McCarthy|
|15th Circuit Judge Group 9||Ron Alverez||Judge Ron Alvarez is highly respected, including by his opponent, and Jaimie Goodman is bringing his challenge purely on the age/retirement issue. Therefore, as with group 2, the sitting judge does not deserve removal from office. It should be noted that Mr. Goodman, who has made the effort to get to know us in the South Florida 912 and attended our meetings, would also make a fine judge and we hope he will try again if not successful in this race.|
|15th Circuit Judge Group 26||James Martz||The group 26 contest pits two former police officers in a clash of wills. Sitting Judge James L. Martz, appointed to the Circuit Court after 5 years on the county bench and a career that also included assistant state attorney and private security consultant, gets good reviews. The challenger, Margherita Downey, claims her clients are not respected by Martz (although others disagree) and has clashed with him in the courtroom. She has a history of confrontations with other judges, leading in one case to a letter of admonishment from the bar. In this case we give the benefit of the doubt to the incumbent.|
|County Court Judge Group 4||Peter Evans||Judge Peter Evans has been on the bench for 24 years and never before challenged for re-election. His experience extends to all the divisions of the County and Circuit courts. Challenger Kenneth Lemoine, in his third attempt at judicial election, is a former West Palm Beach police officer, now an attorney with a solo practice. He has accused Evans of being disrespectful in the courtroom, but Evans responds that he simply requires adequate preparation by litigants. In this case as well, we give the benefit of the doubt to the incumbent.|
|County Court Judge Group 6||Jane Sullivan||We have picked the incumbent in the other 4 judicial races, but group 4 is an open seat. One of the candidates, Judge Edward Garrison was on the bench for 30 years. Fully vested in the state’s retirement system, he retired in 2010 “to protect his family’s financial future’, and now serves part time as a Senior Judge. It would seem returning to the bench would be an example of that “double dipping” that the taxpayers dislike. Jane Sullivan, an experienced public defender, is on her third attempt at a judicial election, having come within 1% in the 2006 race. Although Judge Garrison was a fine judge, his decision to retire and draw a pension should be considered and Jane Sullivan should have her chance at the bench.|
|House District 87 (open primary)||
||We have no pick in this race.|
|House District 88 (open primary)||
||We have no pick in this race.|
|Republican Primary Races|
|Race||Your Choices (*incumbent)||Background|
||Connie Mack IV is the frontrunner, a Congressman with a conservative voting record often confused with his father of the same name who is a former Senator.
Ron McNeil is a panhandle businessman and outspoken opponent of radical Islam.
Mike McCalister is a retired Army Colonel, farmer, college instructor and former candidate for Governor.
Marielena Stuart is a Collier county activist of Cuban heritage who champions liberty and the founding principles.
Dave Weldon is a former Congressman from the Space Coast who has offered himself as the late entry alternative to Connie Mack.
|Senate District 25||
||Melanie Peterson is a Realtor specializing in equestrian properties and a board member of the western PBC Farm Bureau, well suited to the agricultural focus of this district. She fancies smaller government, and lower taxes.
Geoff Sommers is a Boca Raton attorney involved in international trade issues and part time college instructor. He would seek to control spending.
|Senate District 34||
||Ellyn Bogdanoff was elected to the Senate in 2010 after 8 years in the House. An attorney and insurance expert, she was a proponent of expanding casino gambling, supported the budget, school vouchers, student led prayer and private prisons.
Mike Lameyer is a Vietnam era former marine, commerical pilot and flight instructor, firearms instructor and venture capitalist. He ran for Senate district 27 in 2010, losing to Lizbeth Benacquisto. Mike favors e-Verify and dealing effectively with illegal immigration in Florida.
|House District 82||
||Carl Domino, owner of a financial services company, served 8 years in the old House district 83 and ran for Senate in 2010, losing to Ellyn Bogdanoff in the primary. He is remembered for his leadership on the “Save our Homes” statute.
Mary Lynn Magar is VP and General Manager of Heart Care Imaging, and is the Martin County State Committeewoman. She is opposed to increasing taxes or spending at the state level.
John Milton is a Civil Engineer and owner of Milton Engineering Consultants, a former MSO reserve Deputy, and a PTA President. He believes the state needs to operate within its means.
John Pasqualone, a former Fireman, Jon is the COO of the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association, directing their positions for and against legislation.
Calvin Turnquest is a councilman and former vice mayor of Tequesta. He was instrumental in obtaining $3M in stimulus funds for a local bridge project.
|County Commission District 1||
||Dan Amero, a Vietnam era Marine veteran and PBSO detective, is the owner of Jupiter Fitness Center, and has been a councilman in both Jupiter and Tequesta. He advocates simpler regulations, lower taxes on business, and ethical behavior.
Harry Gaboian, a county Airport Operations Officer has been a small business owner and substitute teacher. He opposes subsidizing business with taxpayer money.
Hal Valeche is a financial consultant, former Palm Beach Gardens Councilman, and congressional candidate. He advocates lower taxes and responsible spending.
|GOP State Committeewoman||
||Fran Hancock is the incumbent State Committeewoman. Well known to most county GOP activists, as Fran introduced many of them to politics over the years. She has a wide network of associates throughout the state GOP and is skillful at organizing on the precinct level.
Cindy Tindell, an executive at Nextera Energy (an FPL affiliate), is President of the Republican Club of the Northern Palm Beaches and a GOP fundraiser. She offers “new ideas and enthusiasm”.
|GOP State Committeeman||
||Peter Feaman is the incumbent committeman who has twice been elected caucus chairman at the state level. He is a trial attorney and serves on judicial nominating committees at the circuit and appelate level.
Very little is known about opponent Corey Brisson, 26, of Delray Beach.
|Democrat Primary Races|
|Race||Your Choices (*incumbent)||Background|
|Congressional District 18||
||Patrick Murphy, age 29, is an executive at Coastal Environmental Services, affiliated with a top “green” company. As the designated challenger of Allen West, he is well funded by national Democrat doners.
Jerry Buechler has been a firefighter/paramedic, and a principal in the Firefighters Insurance Trust, the self-insurance organization of the IAFF.
Jim Horn is the owner of Techkraft, a business consulting and marketing company. He ran for CD 16 in 2010 against Tom Rooney, winning 36% of the vote.
|Congressional District 22||
||Lois Frankel is a West Palm Beach attorney and two term Mayor who served in the Florida House from 1986-91, and 1994-2002, broken by an unsuccessful challenge for Alcee Hastings’ Congressional seat. A controversial figure as Mayor, she is well funded by national Democrats eager to acquire CD22.
Kristin Jacobs has been a Broward County Commissioner since 1988 and is term limited in 2014. Lacking Frankel’s out of state support, she is at a 6:1 disadvantage in fundraising.
|Senate District 27||
||Mack Bernard is an attorney and owns a law firm and title company. A former Delray commissioner, he has represented House district 88 since 2009 and has support in the business community. He supports school vouchers.
Jeff Clemens is a former Mayor of Lake Worth and has represented House district 89 since 2010. He is the union candidate, and votes the party line.
|House District 81||
||Steve Perman is a Chiropractic Physician from Boca Raton. He was the only candidate in 2010 for House district 78 and became the incumbent without receiving a single vote. He has consistently voted with his party.
Kevin Rader is an insurance agent and business owner living in Delray Beach. Elected to house district 78 in 2008, he left after one term to run for the Senate in district 27, losing to Republican Lizbeth Benacquisto.
|County Commission District 5||
||Mary Louise Berger has been the administrative assistant to Burt Aaronson for 17 years. As such she brings both continuity and baggage. She is strongly supported by Sheriff Bradshaw and the IAFF.
Steven Meyer is a Boca Attorney who represented the county Democrats during the 2000 Bush/Gore recount. He ran and lost a bid for House district 87 in 2000.
Rich Neuhoff has worked in the recording industry, graphic arts and marketing. A vocal partisan Democrat, he has attracted recent attention for his belief that George Bush had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks.
||Incumbent Anne Gannon has been Tax Collector since 2006 when she defeated the current challenger with 60%. She was a three term state legislator and owner of a public policy firm, and currently lives in Delray Beach.
Peter Carney, then a Republican, was appointed by Jeb Bush to the Tax Collector position in 2006 but lost the election to Ms. Gannon. He is a Boynton Beach attorney and tax specialist.
|Port of Palm Beach Group 1||
||Incumbent Wayne Richards has been a port commissioner since 2000 and is a former Chairman. He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University and a JD from the University of Michigan and practices law in West Palm Beach.
Joseph Anderson is a Riviera Beach native. He has a BA in Accounting from Bethune Cookman University, and is past President of the Voters League of the Palm Beaches.