Palm Beach County Providing Plenty of Excitement Again

Palm Beach County continues to be an enigma for outsides to analyze. As someone who has in the past worked extensively in the county, including for the local Democratic Party let me attempt to bring some clarity to recent events.

The Palm Beach Post has in the last three months, run a series of expose articles and editorials on former State Senator Dave Aronberg and his campaign for State Attorney. The charges against Aronberg are very serious but many Democrats in the county are fighting back. The Post is a paper whose circulation has been declining steeply in recent years and is now read by fewer than 125,000 people on daily basis. Scuttlebutt among local Democrats is that the Post has picked Aronberg as a target in order to stem the decline in readership. Still, I am not sure the Post’s management would authorize a “crusade” against a single candidate for office in order to increase readership. More likely, a few bitter people are driving the Post’s coverage. It should also be stated that regardless of the motivations for these pieces, the charges are serious enough to dim the star on what was considered to be one of the Democrats best statewide electoral prospects.

Today, local Democrats will replace Pamela Goodman with Former House Speaker Tom Gustafson as the Democratic nominee in House District 89 at a special meeting. This is a winnable seat carried by Barack Obama in 2008 and nearly carried by Alex Sink two years later. Gustafson has been active politically even though he has not appeared on a ballot in twenty two years (when he ran for Lieutenant Governor on Bill Nelson’s ticket in 1990) he is a more formidable candidate that Goodman could have ever hoped to be.  Still the late start means Gustafson will have an uphill fight.

Moreover, questions need to be asked as to why local Democrats failed to field a credible candidate in House District 85 against Pat Rooney. This is after all a district both Obama and Sink carried and where the Democrats came close to winning in 2006 and 2008. The self- recruited candidate David Lutrin has some long-term promise and should generate backing now, since he is the only candidate the Democrats have fielded in a seat where the top of the ticket is certain to be strong. But from all indications, Lutrin has not been given the type of support from the party needed to seriously contest this Democratic leaning seat.

The county’s Democrats are also being torn apart by a primary in House District 81, where Former Rep. Kevin Rader is looking to regain his old seat against Current Rep. Steve Perman. This is a race between annoying perennial candidates. Rader has been in and out of three races this year, first challenging Maria Sachs in a Senate Democratic Primary before shifting to the District 27 Senate race where TPH has endorsed Rep. Jeff Clemens. Now, Rader seeks to reclaim his old House seat which was captured by Perman in 2010 when Raer sought a Senate seat which spans to Lee and Charlotte counties. Prior to his election to the State House in 2008, Rader ran for State House in a primarily Broward County district (where he ran a very strong campaign it should be noted against Connie Mack IV) and for Palm Beach County School Board. Perman for his part has run in four consecutive elections in this seat, losing the first two and finally winning in 2010.

The District 81 race has pitted progressive against progressive and activist against activist. The race is a microcosm of the unproductive nature of southeast Florida primaries. Two relatively liberal Democrats pitted against each other, hurting feelings and dividing the party before a critical fall election. This script has been repeated time and time again through the years.

The Palm Beach County Commission will be getting an overhaul this year. Commissioner Burt Aaronson, the leader of southern Palm Beach County Democrats for almost two decades is term-limited. For his seat he has endorsed his long time Commission Aide Mary Lou Berger. Berger was the early leader in the race but recently local Attorney and star of the 2000 Presidential recount Steven Meyer has come on, thanks to a grassroots campaign which has seen him walk much of the district. Meyer also received the endorsement of the Palm Beach Post.

Concerns continue among Democratic activists that several party insiders may turn a blind eye towards the important 22nd Congressional District race if Lois Frankel is the Democratic nominee. Former State Rep. Adam Hasner who has already secured the GOP nomination has previously enjoyed support from many local Democrats and the fear is abound that should their be a Frankel-Hasner race, some Democrats will opt for Hasner. In the District 22 Democratic Primary the Political Hurricane has endorsed Lois Frankel.

Elsewhere, the fallout from the Evelyn Garcia matter continues. Garcia was forced to resign from DNC but continues her campaign for State House which has now become a lightning rod. The fear among many Democrats is that Republicans can seize upon Garcia’s statements should she be elected to create pressure points for years to come. But in fairness, Garcia is a smart and savvy pol and her missteps may in fact prove to be teaching and learning moments for the entire party, not the cause for the great panic it has created internally.

The local DEC was previously rocked by the immigration fraud scandal involving C. Shahid Freeman. Freeman now faces a criminal investigation into fraudulently practicing law and collecting money to help with immigration cases locally. The scandal diverted the local Democratic Party from focusing on the election and threatened the good work  Chairman Mark Alan Siegel and his board have done to organize Palm Beach County over the past several years.

As always, Palm Beach County is providing more than its fair share of scandal, intrigue and excitement in this election cycle.

Disclosure: Steven Meyer is a close personal friend of mine and I have informally advised his campaign at various times in the past six months. 


26 thoughts on “Palm Beach County Providing Plenty of Excitement Again

  1. Okay…Rader had no business switching races.

    Maybe he’s so burned by previous runs against Republicans that he will only challenge Democrats now????

  2. What a loaded post. I agree on most counts. Aronberg by the way, regardless of the discussion of bitter enemies has lost the faith and trust of a lot of people.

    He appears to be an immature, eager office seeker who will go to any l;ength to get the State Attorney’s job. He also appears to know he is in the wrong hence why in one of the stories you did not link he fears someone wearing a wire and went running out of the room.

    Not proper behavior for someone who has sought the job as Florida’s top law enforcement officer in the past and is seeking the same job on a local level.

    Regarding Rader he is better than Perman who votes a lot with business and the Republicans.

  3. Let’s get a couple of facts straight here:

    1- Aronberg is being attacked by a paper who is dying and whose entire agenda is to justify why Michael McAulife who failed in office, left early.
    2- Gustafson is going nowhere. He has made more enemies in politics than people that actually know Hager. He is despised by people both in Tallahassee and South Florida.
    3- Rader vs. Perman is not dividing the party. Some of us have just decided to ignore it.
    4- Burt Aaronson is the leader of all of Palm Beach County not just the south. I know you have heard of the People’s Choice PAC. That is the actually party not the DEC.
    5- Garcia is toast and so is Siegel.

    Otherwise your article is pretty accurate. Freeman is schmuck and Meyer has momentum. Those are the only things right in this posting. Try harder next time and you may actually get things right.

  4. Meyer’s momentum it should be pointed out has more to do with Berger being weak than anything he has done.

  5. Must be all the phosphorus and lead filled water down there that makes Palm Beach politics so insane to watch for us outsiders.

  6. 1. Aronberg is being attacked by a paper…yet all the facts were in his own words…hmmm.
    2. Abruzzo his bff conflict of interest reported yesterday. Only Democrat (name only) for working for Weiss and Handler and not disclosing it.
    3. Rader is a joke and so is Deutch and Wexler for screwing up the party. The guy is good for the Jewish community and the Democratic party like Sarah Palin is good for McCain’s run for prez and women’s rights.
    4. Burt Aaronson…threatening the judge? Who else has he threatened?
    5. Siegal was put in there by Deutch, Wexler and Aaronson.
    6. Hager is going to win!

    The only smart one in PBC is Andre because he knows all these goons are going down and he will be the only one standing.

  7. Mike,

    Since you are a north county liberal type let me educate you…

    1. The Post has its own agenda. Plain and simple they are envious of Aronberg’s raise and McAuliffe’s failures in office.
    2. Abruzzo is a future star of the party. Weiss & Handler are a good Democratic law firm. No conflict there.
    3. Deutch is well respected by people of all incomes, races and religions.
    4. Aaronson gets a little crazy. A monster but he is our monster.
    5. Siegel was put in there by Siegel and the DEC idiots.
    6. Hager is going to win.

    Andre Fladell is the smartest pol around. That is why he has earned the nickname “Prince of Palm Beach County.”

  8. Ok well here is the issue that I have….first of all I am far from liberal. I give here and there to both sides. Please clarify some of this for me.

    1. Aronberg looks bad since his name is on everything…sorry I hate the post too.

    2. Abruzzo I dealt with sweet kid but nothing upstairs. Weiss and Handler I have a few buddies that have worked with them……enough said. Huge conflict of interest

    3. Deutch is just like Wexler…..need I say no one is impressed but both are not affective.

    4. Aaronson is Aaronson he has done some good things in this country but he has overstep too many times especially with Aronberg.

    5. Siegal was put in by Wexler, Deutch in 2010…don’t kid yourself

    6. Fladell is not a prince he is smart but the Ds are pretty dumb since he is helping so many republicans in the process. This includes many of the so called leaders. I am interested in seeing if Ron comes back to challenge Deutch.

  9. 1. Aronberg looks bad since his name is on everything…sorry I hate the post too.

    Wrong. The Post has used anonymous sources and then quoted those without credibility

    2. Abruzzo I dealt with sweet kid but nothing upstairs. Weiss and Handler I have a few buddies that have worked with them……enough said. Huge conflict of interest

    Weiss and Handler are the bedrock of the party. If you believe otherwise become a Republican.

    3. Deutch is just like Wexler…..need I say no one is impressed but both are not affective.

    I believe you mean effective not affective. Both are great public servants and have kept a professional responsive office led by Wendi Lipsich who herself is a big influence in our party.

    4. Aaronson is Aaronson he has done some good things in this country but he has overstep too many times especially with Aronberg.

    If you do not like Aaronson leave the county. This is his county and he has done more for it and for the local Democratic Party than any other person in history. That is a fact.

    5. Siegal was put in by Wexler, Deutch in 2010…don’t kid yourself

    He was put in during 2008 and no Wexler and Deutch did not have anything to do with it.

    6. Fladell is not a prince he is smart but the Ds are pretty dumb since he is helping so many republicans in the process. This includes many of the so called leaders. I am interested in seeing if Ron comes back to challenge Deutch.

    Klein has his own scandal. Ever see this?

    I do not think he can run for office again. Deutch is the top one now, a leader that is the cream that has risen to the top.

  10. Aronberg is a disgrace. I backed Gelber for a reason.

    Something about the kid always made me suspicious.

    The Post has run eight stories on him. You only linked one. Those interested to go through the Post archives.

  11. hahahah I remember this dude. The guy on the daily show with the hookers and cocaine. He is such a joke. Deutch hopefully learned what not to become but they are all shady in pbc Deutch included. I think we need to start all over. Patrick Murphy is the star…not Deutch. Deutch is a carbon copy…..dude he is a joke. These people are part of the problem but the party from top to bottom allows it.,2933,390663,00.html

  12. Wexler is pathetic. A complete clown.

    Deutch on the other hand is a dignified, humble leader. I support him proudly.

  13. Wexler is a clown. Deutch still needs to define himself outside of Burt and Robert. If he does he will be great. Outside of that he will have a race in a few years.

  14. Corruption County strikes again!

    It’s good to know you guys will have a State Attorney that fits the perception of the county.

  15. Perhaps the Post is anti semetic?

    I’ve heard that for years. Now we have proof.

    Aronberg will still win and will be exonarated after this witch hunt concludes.

  16. Witch hunt? Imagine Aronberg at his desk cooking up – or at least approving – the slogan “Justice for Makayla” for display at the phony Brooks Brothers riot-esque demonstration outside the PBC courthouse. I’m sure most of it would rather not, but it happened. The paper does seem to have an anti-Aronberg bent, but so will the Tribune, the News-Press, Sayfie Review and so on as time goes on if his career turns out to be as long and high-profile as it seems it might be.

    I’m from Tampa and was a Gelber supporter when I met Mr. Aronberg at a 2009 DFA campaign training session in Jacksonville. I came at him with a skeptical question regarding a good government amendment (this one: co-sponsored by Keith Fitzgerald, who at the time was my professor at New College and (I’m pretty sure) a Gelber supporter, which Aronberg was against.

    He essentially melted my heart: he explained why it wasn’t practical and how it was basically a bit of legerdemain in a way that completely convinced me and in the process shed light on his undeniable intellect and charisma. He followed up with an email as promised and remembered my name the next time I saw him, asked about my candidate, all of that — dude is the real deal and has the potential to be a true progressive governor one day and maybe even a national figure.

    Still, the fact remains that despite the above misgivings about the Post which are likely justified, these articles do reveal some seriously unsavory aspects of Aronberg. The emails don’t lie even if O’Boyle and the Post do, and we should accord decency and intellectual honesty their proper place when we debate his merits as a possible future standard bearer for the Dems in Florida.

    “It’s so good, it should be spread over Facebook! :-),”

  17. Aronberg is actually pretty right wing. As for that Fitzgerald sponsored legislation he actively opposed it. He is not worthy of any support from progressive activist Democrats and I am not shocked to see his ambition outrun his common sense and so called Ivy League Education.

  18. The whole situation is pathetic. The reality is that Aronberg has lost a lot of Democratic support because some of us have to weigh the danger of electing a Republican against outright corruption, which is what Aronberg has done. You didn’t link the story about his intimidation of Judge Marks and his use of Republican allies to pressure Rick Scott and Marks for his own purposes.

    It is a great relief we didn’t nominate this guy for AG. I admit I voted for him and strongly supported him but will not support him ever again. First he went ti work for Bondi and now has undertaken a year of intimidation and corruption.

  19. Aronberg will win but he is still guilty. The post is not anti semetic. Aronberg is far from being part of the Jewish community. That is like saying Wexler represents any Jews or non-Jews in this county…only the ones that cover his ass! Talk to Rader and Deutch.

  20. He may still lose. Do not be surprised if either the NPA or Republican leave the race.

    Whether he wins or not, he has certainly squandered a great deal of precious political promise. He can no longer be taken at his word by anybody.

    I particularly like the part of one of the articles where he paid protesters who did not even know who Michael McAuliffe was. The whole thing is outragerous: Marx, Weiss & Aaronson, letter to Scott, then this scam to extort money from a victims family but the protest was the funniest and most pathetic of all.

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