Challenge to state Sen. Bobby Powell’s election is over

 

State Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach
State Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach

A Florida Senate committee appointed to review a challenge to West Palm Beach Democratic state Sen. Bobby Powell’s election has been dissolved after Powell’s Republican rival, Ron Berman, withdrew his contest of the result.

 

Powell defeated Berman with 54.1 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 election for the northern Palm Beach County District 30 seat. But Berman filed a notice of contest on Nov. 21 because Ruben Anderson, a Democrat who never made the primary ballot because of a bounced qualifying check, had filed a lawsuit seeking a new Democratic primary that included him on the ballot.

 

Ron Berman, now pursuing a Palm Beach Gardens council bid, has dropped his contest of Democratic state Sen. Bobby Powell's election.
Ron Berman, now pursuing a Palm Beach Gardens council bid, has dropped his contest of Democratic state Sen. Bobby Powell’s election.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis dismissed Anderson’s suit in December, saying he did not have jurisdiction to decide whether Powell should be seated and that it was up to the Senate to decide.

 

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, in December appointed a five-member credentials committee to review the case beginning on Thursday. But Negron dissolved the committee today, noting that Berman had withdrawn his notice of contest over the weekend.

 

Berman opened a campaign for Palm Beach Gardens city council on Dec. 20 — but he hasn’t ruled out another run for Senate in 2018.

 

“I believe that there was a good possibility to have a new election and believe I could have won, and I also believe had Mr. Anderson been in the original race, things may have worked out differently,” Berman said in a statement today on his dropping the contest to the 2016 election.

 

“Mr. Powell himself didn’t violate anyone’s rights, and I also don’t think that the taxpayers should bear the burden of a special election, nor be without representation during the forthcoming legislative session this spring. We fell a little short in the Senate race in this newly drawn district and I will make a decision later this year, whether I will run again next year to have the opportunity to represent all of the great communities in District 30,” Berman said.

 

 

Senate panel to review challenge to Riviera Beach’s Powell

Newly elected Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, faces  a Senate "contest" from his Republican opponent.
Newly elected Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, faces a Senate “contest” from his Republican opponent.

Riviera Beach Democratic state Sen. Bobby Powell’s courtroom victory this week may not be the last word in whether he retains that seat.

A day after a judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking a re-do election for Powell’s seat, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, appointed a credentials committee Tuesday to consider to whether the Democrat should continue serving.

Powell’s Republican challenger, Ron Berman, filed the “contest” a day before the Democrat was sworn-in on Nov. 22. Powell carried 54 percent of the vote on Nov. 8 in defeating Berman.

Berman, though, unsuccessfully sought to stop Powell’s swearing-in since Ruben Anderson, a Democrat who never made the primary ballot because of a bounced qualifying check, had filed a lawsuit that was dismissed Monday by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.

Lewis said he did not have jurisdiction to decide whether Powell should be seated. Instead, Lewis said it was up to the Senate to decide.

The five-member Senate credentials committee appointed by Negron is chaired by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, who formerly represented the Wellington-area. The panel is comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats and is not expected to meet until January.

Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging Powell’s election

State Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach.
State Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach.

A Leon County judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit over the election of Riviera Beach Democratic state Sen. Bobby Powell, apparently avoiding the possibility of a costly do-over contest.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he lacked the legal jurisdiction to hear the claim by Ruben Anderson, a Democrat, and Ron Berman, the Republican who lost to Powell in last month’s election.

Robert Hauser, a West Palm Beach attorney representing Anderson, said it would be several days before a decision is reached on whether to appeal Lewis’ ruling.

Anderson was disqualified in July after his bank did not honor his campaign’s $1,781.82 check to cover the candidate qualifying fee.

Florida law gives a candidate until the end of the qualifying period to correct such a situation. But Anderson, a pastor who retired from running his own landscaping business, had no remedy because his check was returned after qualifying closed.

Anderson, though, gained new legal life when the section of state law that thwarted him was declared unconstitutional in September by the Florida Supreme Court in a similar case involving the mayor’s race in Miami Gardens.

But in his ruling, Lewis sided with Powell’s attorney, Mark Herron, who argued in a recent hearing that since the lawmaker had already taken office, it was up to the Senate to decide, not a court.

Senate rules, though, also require any such election “contests” to be filed before the Legislature’s organizational session, a date which has already passed.

Berman had filed a contest with the Senate seeking unsuccessfully to stop Powell from being seated during the Nov. 22 organizational session. But since Berman’s contest sought to halt Powell’s swearing in until the the legal challenge was resolved, that avenue now also appears closed.

Ryan Berman, a Michigan lawyer representing his father, Ron, said it was unclear whether Monday’s ruling would prove the final action.

“I think we’re in unprecedented territory here, anyway,” Ryan Berman said.

Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said a replay of the two recently completed elections could cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

Senate Democrats not completely shut out of power in Negron administration

Senate President Joe Negron
Senate President Joe Negron

With his three fellow Palm Beach County senators all Democrats, new Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, only went so far Tuesday in his approach to power-sharing with the minority party.

Sens. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, Kevin Rader and Bobby Powell all picked up vice-chairmanships in the Negron administration. But Negron did name a few Senate Democrats to more muscular roles as chairs of four committees, although Republicans rule the rest.

Within the county’s delegation, Clemens will serve as second-in-command of the Community Affairs Committee; Rader, vice-chair of the Agriculture Committee; and Powell, the number two of the budget panel overseeing transportation, tourism and economic development.

Rader also will alternate with a House counterpart to be named later as chair of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee.

Senate Democrats Bill Montford of Tallahassee, Lauren Book of Plantation, Randolph Bracy of Orlando and Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville were named chairs of Commerce and Tourism, Environmental Preservation and Conservation, Criminal Justice, and Military and Veterans Affairs, respectively.

Ruling Republicans control the remainder of the committees, including the powerful Appropriations Committee, led by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, a one-time Negron rival.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, who once represented Wellington, is the new Rules chair, directing the course of legislation in the Senate.

Republicans command 25 of the 4o seats in the Florida Senate, with Democrats making a net gain of only one seat in this month’s elections.

Call for costly re-do of Palm Beach County state Senate race now before judge

Newly elected Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, faces a legal challenge from a primary opponent.
Newly elected Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, faces a legal challenge from a primary opponent.

Prospects for a costly and confusing election re-do in a Palm Beach County state Senate district now rest with a Leon County judge following a Tuesday hearing which coincided with the Legislature’s organization session.

Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, was sworn-in as a new senator at 10:32 a.m. Just over a half-hour later across the street from the Capitol, lawyers for Powell and political opponents Ruben Anderson, a Democrat, and Ron Berman, a Republican, were battling over whether the primary and general election contests for Senate District 30 should be replayed.

Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, looking on in Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis’s courtroom, said a do-over of the two recently completed elections would likely cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

Anderson was disqualified in July after his bank did not honor his campaign’s $1,781.82 check to cover the candidate qualifying fee.

 Florida law gives a candidate until the end of the qualifying period to correct such a situation. But Anderson had no remedy because his check was returned after qualifying closed.

Anderson, though, gained new legal life when the section of state law that thwarted him was declared unconstitutional in September by the Florida Supreme Court.

TV spending in Florida Senate races second in nation; Slosberg spent most in state

Spending in Florida Senate races ranked second in the nation.
Spending in Florida Senate races ranked second in the nation.

Television ad spending in Florida Senate races ranked second among the nation’s legislative contests, with Boca Raton Democrat Irv Slosberg spending the most of any candidate in the state, a new report shows.

The Center for Public Integrity’s review of TV spending in the last campaign shows that $17.9 million was spent on more than 29,000 spots in Florida Senate contests. All 40 seats were up for grabs this year, but far fewer attracted big spending.

The Florida numbers were second only to the $26.2 million spent airing TV ads for Illinois state House seats.

Slosberg, a House member defeated in the August primary after challenging incumbent Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, spent $817,290 on TV, according to CPI’s analysis. That was almost double the second-place individual spending of $477,470 by trial lawyer Michael Steinger of Palm Beach Gardens, who lost to newly elected Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach.

In Florida, the biggest TV spending was done by party-related committees.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee poured $7.1 million into more than 10,000 TV ads; almost double the $3.8 million spent by the Florida Democratic Party to help its candidates.

Florida Republicans now command 25 of the Senate’s 40 seats, down one from where they were before the elections.

Negativity pervades Michael Steinger-Bobby Powell Democratic Senate primary

Democratic state Senate rivals Michael Steinger, left, and state Rep. Bobby Powell.
Democratic state Senate rivals Michael Steinger, left, and state Rep. Bobby Powell.

You’d think a guy whose father is in federal prison for fleecing investors might avoid bringing up parental misdeeds in a political campaign.

 

But trial lawyer and Democratic state Senate District 30 candidate Michael Steinger — whose father Joel Steinger was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for masterminding an $800 million insurance scam —  has been hammering his primary foe, state Rep. Bobby Powell, for Powell’s father’s 2014 arrest for aggravated battery and firing a gun in a home he and his son have shared.

 

It’s just part of the negativity between the rival Democrats as Tuesday’s primary approaches in the north-county district.

 

Click here to read Palm Beach Post reporter Bill DiPaolo’s overview of one of Florida’s nastiest primaries.

Bid to hike Palm Beach Port commissioners’ salaries faces rough seas

Effort to boost salaries for Port of Palm Beach commissioners facing rough seas
Effort to boost salaries for Port of Palm Beach commissioners facing rough seas

A proposal that would almost double the pay of Port of Palm Beach commissioners cleared a House panel Monday but appears likely to face rough seas in the Legislature.

Port of Palm Beach commissioners, who are elected to the part-time post, earn $9,500 annually – a rate that is unchanged since 1999.

The legislation (HB 1437) by Reps. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, and Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, would boost the salary to $16,000-a-year, and allow for 3 percent annual increases after that.

Powell told the Local Government Affairs subcommittee that port business is booming under the five-member district’s leadership since the last pay raise.

“They’ve increased the amount of business they do three times since that time,” Powell said. “It’s a very important position.”

Lawmakers, however, were skeptical.

“I’m not sure the $16,000 is the appropriate number,” said Rep. Charlie Stone, R-Ocala.

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, also questioned why 3 percent annual increases would be allowed under the bill, a local measure which has the support of the Palm Beach County legislative delegation.

The port’s taxing district takes in West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach and the county’s northern tier. Established in 1915, the district hasn’t levied taxes since 1974, pulling in its more than $26 million in revenue through rents, royalties and service charges on port business.

House committee members, however, generally struggled with how much pay was fair for Palm Beach County’s elected port commissioners, with debate taking on a ‘Goldilocks’ quality.

Odds or evens: Senate districts get new numbers following redistricting ruling

Palm Beach County Senate districts get new numbers.
Palm Beach County Senate districts get new numbers.

Florida state Senate districts were renumbered Tuesday by staffers from the Auditor General’s office to meet an order issued last week by a judge who endorsed new boundaries drawn by a voters’ coalition.

All 40 of Florida’s Senate districts will be on the ballot this year, a requirement stemming from the new map selected by Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds.

District line-drawing was turned over to the judge as part of a protracted legal fight between the Republican-led Legislature and voters’ groups led by the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause.

Courts agreed with challengers that lawmakers had drawn congressional maps favoring Republicans and GOP leaders agreed with voters’ groups that a judge would choose Senate boundaries. The Senate hasn’t yet decided whether to appeal Reynolds’ ruling to the Florida Supreme Court.

In Florida’s election system, senators assigned odd numbers will run for four-year terms this fall, while those in even-numbered seats will campaign for two-year terms.

Although Florida has eight-year term limits, senators in even-numbered districts would have a chance to serve 10 years because — except for election years following redistricting — senators serve staggered terms, with only half the chamber on the ballot at one time.

In Palm Beach County, the districts eyed by four incumbent senators all were assigned odd numbers.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, had been representing District 32 in the voters’ coalition map advanced by Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds. Now, Negron’s seat is District 25. Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, had been District 27 but now will be District 31.

Sens. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, and Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, both had been eyeing the District 34 seat that was renumbered Tuesday to District 29.

A north county seat that had been District 25 was assigned District 30 in Tuesday’s random renumbering. With the even-numbered designation, that means it carries the coveted 10-year term potential and has already attracted interest from Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach and Emily Slosberg, an attorney and political consultant whose father is Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton.