State Rep. Lori Berman mulls run for Clemens’ Senate seat; Abruzzo out

Four Dems to watch in upcoming special Senate District 31 election (clockwise from top left): former state Rep. Irving Slosberg, state Rep. Lori Berman, state Rep. David Silvers, Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein.

Facing House term limits in Tallahassee, state Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, launched a 2018 campaign for an open Palm  Beach County commission seat in May and raised $76,672 through the end of September.

But Berman now appears likely to abandon her commission campaign and run instead in a special election for the District 31 state Senate seat that suddenly became open on Friday when Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, abruptly resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair.

Look for Berman to announce her plans Monday.

Former Democratic state Rep. Irving Slosberg, who lost a 2016 primary challenge to Clemens, has already said he plans to run in the not-yet-scheduled special election to fill Clemens’ Democrat-leaning seat.

Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein said he is “going to take a serious look” at the special Senate race as well.

And don’t rule out Democratic state Rep. David Silvers, though Silvers on Friday night said it was too early to make a decision.

State Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, a former state senator, was also mentioned as a potential District 31 candidate, but said today he will not run.

Within 3 hours of Clemens’ Senate resignation, Dem says he’s running

Four Democrats to watch in Senate District 31: Former state Rep. Irving Slosberg says he’s running, Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein says he’s looking, state Reps. Joseph Abruzzo and David Silvers say it’s too soon to contemplate.’

That didn’t take long.

Less than three hours after Atlantis Democrat Jeff Clemens resigned from his state Senate seat after admitting to an extramarital affair, former state Rep. and 2016 Clemens primary rival Irving Slosberg said he will run in the special election to replace Clemens.

UPDATE: See the latest on who’s in, out in District 31

Voters in Florida Senate District 31 will choose a replacement for Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens, who resigned Friday.

Clemens, who had been in line to become Senate Democratic leader next year, announced his resignation a few minutes after 5 p.m. after Politico reported in the morning that he’d had an affair with a lobbyist.

“I’m in,” Slosberg told The Palm Beach Post at 7:26 p.m. on Friday.

Gov. Rick Scott has not yet set a date for a special election to replace Clemens in Senate District 31, which runs from Lake Worth to Delray Beach generally east of Florida’s Turnpike. Democrats hold a 46.6-to-24.1 percent registration advantage over Republicans in the district.

Slosberg could have company in a special Democratic primary.

Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein, who recently announced he won’t seek re-election in the upcoming March municipal election, said he’s “going to take a serious look” at the Senate District 31 seat.

Two Democratic state House members — Reps. Joseph Abruzzo and David Silvers — are also worth keeping an eye on. Both said Friday that it’s too soon to consider a campaign.

Slosberg gave up his state House seat last year to challenge Clemens in a Democratic Senate primary. Clemens won with 52.3 percent to 32.4 percent for Slosberg while Emmanuel Morel got 15.2 percent.

Irving Slosberg is the father of state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, who ran for her dad’s old seat last year.


Dem Andrew Gillum snags another Palm Beach County endorsement in governor race

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, left, and state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach.

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic governor candidate Andrew Gillum has picked up an endorsement from state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach.

Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon has also endorsed Gillum.

While lacking the star power of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who endorsed Democrat Gwen Graham in the governor’s race on Wednesday, both Abruzzo and Gannon are well-connected among the Democratic club presidents and party activists who can be influential in a Democratic primary in Florida’s third-largest county.

Abruzzo says the 37-year-old Gillum can fire up the Democratic base in a way other candidates can’t.

Said Abruzzo in an endorsement statement released by the Gillum campaign: “Only a few times in a generation do we have the opportunity to elect a leader like Andrew Gillum. He brings the integrity, experience, and energy to ignite the Democratic base. As Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew has had a front-row seat to state government’s inner-workings and he possesses a strong grasp of state issues. As Democratic House Whip, I can attest that Andrew has worked with the Democratic Caucus and will be ready to lead as Governor from Day One. He is the Democrat in this race who can rebuild our economy so that it works better for everyone in Palm Beach County and the Sunshine State. Andrew will work tirelessly to ensure that every worker has the opportunity to earn a paycheck that supports their family, and that’s just the kind of leadership Florida needs in our next Governor. I will be joining him on the campaign trail, in South Florida and throughout our state, to have discussions with veterans, teachers, and first responders about why we need Andrew Gillum as the next governor of the state of Florida.”

Gillum, Graham and businessman Chris King have opened Democratic campaigns for governor while trial lawyer John Morgan and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine could also enter the Democratic race.



Irv Slosberg riles fellow Dems with talk of challenging Sens. Joseph Abruzzo or Jeff Clemens

State Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, in one of his trademark "Let Irv Serve" hats, is considering a state Senate run.
State Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, in one of his trademark “Let Irv Serve” hats, is considering a state Senate run.

The buzz after a United South County Democratic Club meeting Wednesday night was that state Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, was telling other elected officials he plans to run against state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, for the newly drawn state Senate District 29 seat. That’s after Slosberg told PostOnPolitics last week he’s thinking of running against state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, in the new Senate District 31.


Sen. Joe Abruzzo
Sen. Joe Abruzzo

Slosberg told PostOnPolitics afterward that it’s “a possibility” he’ll lauch a Democratic primary run against Abruzzo or Clemens — or just remain in his House seat.


Since unseating a Democratic incumbent in a 2000 state House primary, Slosberg has enjoyed tweaking the south-county Democratic establishment. So when he talks about taking on a fellow Democrat, there’s always a question of whether he’s serious or just trying to get a rise out of party poohbahs.


The latest round of Slosberg rumors have prompted former Democratic state Rep. Kelly Skidmore to open a campaign for Slosberg’s state House District 91 seat in case he leaves.


Former state Rep. Kelly Skidmore.
Former state Rep. Kelly Skidmore.

“I don’t have any intention of running against him. But I just wanted to make sure there’s a placeholder if he does decide in the next couple of weeks to run for the Senate,” said Skidmore, who served in the state House from 2006 to 2010.


Attorney Andy Thomson is also considering a District 91 run if Slosberg leaves the seat. Slosberg’s daughter, Emily Slosberg, has opened a District 91 campaign for 2018, when Irving Slosberg faces term limits.


Slosberg’s home is in Senate District 29, where Abruzzo is running. But many of Slosberg’s constituents live in District 31, where Clemens is running.


The candidate qualifying deadline is noon on June 24, and Slosberg said he plans to take his time to plot his next move.


“I have a couple weeks left” to make a decision, Slosberg said Wednesday night.



Lawmakers approve payment to Pahokee girl raped on county school bus

Lawmakers approve bill to compensate Pahokee girl assaulted on school bus
Lawmakers approve bill to compensate Pahokee girl assaulted on school bus

Close to $1.8 million was awarded Thursday by state lawmakers to a Pahokee girl raped by an emotionally disturbed fellow student on a Palm Beach County school bus in 2007.

The county school board had reached a $600,000 settlement with the girl and her family following a trial and jury award in 2013 of $1.7 million.

While the school board already paid $100,000, the state Legislature must approve payment to an individual for any amount above that which is assessed against a government agency.

In an earlier committee hearing, several lawmakers argued that the settlement amount was inadequate. The school board earlier this year regrouped and agreed to pay the larger amount to the girl, identified only as Q.B. in court and legislative documents.

“We are about to change someone’s life for the better,” Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, told the Senate on Thursday, adding that the payment covers legal damages along with long-term counseling and life-training for the youngster.

Abruzzo spearheaded the effort to boost the initial settlement reached between the girl’s family and the school board. The measure (CS/HB 3515) cleared the Senate 40-0 after the House last month OK’d it 106-7.

It still needs approval from Gov. Rick Scott.

Q.B. was 3-years-old when she was raped by the older student on a school bus. Q.B. also suffers from a speech disorder and learning disabilities.

Jurors concluded the school board was wrong to have high school students ride the bus with pre-schoolers and that the bus driver and another attendant failed to adequately supervise students, leading to the assault on Q.B.




Civil rights bill for LGBT Floridians dead for 2016

Sen. Joe Abruzzo
Sen. Joe Abruzzo

A measure that would extend civil rights protections to gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians is dead for 2016.

Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, the sponsor of the bill, had used a procedural move to get the legislation back before the Senate Judiciary Committee, after the panel cast a tie vote a day earlier, which would’ve killed the bill.

But after meeting with opponents throughout Tuesday, Abruzzo said he confronted a reality. “We do not have the votes at the present time,” Abruzzo told the committeee.

Judiciary Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, said, “We are deadlocked.”

Palm Beach County is among 37 counties and cities with local laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people at work, in housing, restaurants, hotels and other public accommodations.

But in most communities across North and Central Florida, gay Floridians can still be fired on those grounds, or refused service in a restaurant or hotel.

LGBT civil rights bill turns into debate on bathrooms

Civil rights bill stalls over bathroom talk
Civil rights bill stalls over bathroom talk

An effort to extend civil rights protections to gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians was detoured Monday into a debate over whether the bill opened the door to biological males entering women’s restrooms and locker rooms.

The measure failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a tie vote, clouding what supporters had been promoting as an historic moment in Florida civil rights history.

Bill sponsor Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, used a procedural move to get the measure back before the same committee today. But odds on the re-do proving successful are uncertain.

“We are going to be hunkered down in my office, looking at different options to address members concerns on the committee,” Abruzzo said. “I don’t believe that senators on this committee want on their permanent record that they voted against civil rights in the state of Florida, and they stopped progress.”

Palm Beach County is among 37 counties and cities with local laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people at work, in housing, restaurants, hotels and other public accommodations. But in most communities across North and Central Florida, gay Floridians can still be fired on those grounds, or refused service in a restaurant or hotel.

Still, it was the bathroom and locker room issue that drew much of Monday’s focus.

A leading opponent of the bill, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said “there’s not a soul on this committee” that endorsed discrimination.

But Simpson warned the change could spark “a cottage industry with a lot of civil lawsuits going on in this state.”

Florida Legislature 2016: Scott personally pitches $1 billion tax cut idea to senators

Gov. Scott testified before the Senate Finance and Tax Committee on his bid for $1 billion in tax cuts
Gov. Scott testified before the Senate Finance and Tax Committee on his bid for $1 billion in tax cuts

Gov. Rick Scott made his second appearance in as many months before Florida lawmakers Monday, pitching his plan for $1 billion in tax breaks.

The governor testified before the Senate Finance and Tax Committee promising that the business-dominated tax-cutting would add fuel to a state economy that he says is already “on a roll.”

“If we keep reducing taxes…we get more companies and jobs in our state,” Scott told the panel.

Scott testified before a similar committee last month in the House. But the Senate, where a number of leaders are wary of permanently erasing $1 billion from the state treasury, may prove his toughest test after the 2016 legislative session opens Tuesday.

On the session’s eve, Scott got off easy. Senate committee members generally praised the governor’s approach.

Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, said he liked Scott’s plan for bolstering manufacturers, saying it might spur companies to leave the Midwest for places like Palm Beach County’s Glades region.

The bulk of the reductions — $770 million over the next two years — stems from shielding manufacturers and retailers from the state’s corporate income tax.

Scott also would permanently eliminate the sales tax on machinery and equipment, which lawmakers agreed to lift two years ago but which is scheduled to go back into effect in 2017. That’s worth $73 million to manufacturers.

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, questioned why Scott wasn’t looking to cut property taxes — the state levy that may affect the most citizens and companies.

The governor in his budget proposal instead uses rising property values to finance almost the entire $507.3 million increase in school funding he is seeking. Many lawmakers from both parties have criticized the move as amounting to a tax increase.

“I think the important thing this year is to focus on the tax cuts we’ve proposed,” Scott told Soto.

He said his goal is to “grow the economy,” saying that any lost revenue will be offset by more activity, including an expansion of jobs and sales-tax transactions.

More issues to watch this session:


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.

Palm Beach County state Senate districts to change sharply under plan selected by judge

Palm Beach County Senate boundaries, recommended by judge
Palm Beach County Senate boundaries, recommended by judge

Senate district boundaries drawn by a voters’ coalition that could help Democrats win additional seats were recommended Wednesday by a judge over those drawn by Republican state lawmakers.

Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds sent a plan to the Florida Supreme Court seen as likely helping Democrats gain at least two new seats in a Senate where Republicans currently control 26 of 40 seats.

The proposed map also changes all four of Palm Beach County’s Senate districts. It would keep the county’s lone Republican senator, Senate President-designate Joe Negron, of Stuart, in the county — with the district he currently holds reshaped to represent the county’s far northwestern region.

The map submitted by the Florida Senate would have moved Negron out of Palm Beach County, into a district comprised of Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties.

The three seats held by Palm Beach County Democratic senators are overhauled in the recommended plan — and could set up a clash between Sens. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, and Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who may vie over the same district.

A western Palm Beach County district, including the Glades area, includes most of Abruzzo’s current district. But it also loops south in Boca Raton and Broward County, taking in some voters Sachs currently serves.

The central county district now held by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, loses Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach, but keeps Lake Worth and surrounding communities. A third county Senate seat would include West Palm Beach and continue north along the coast to the Martin County line, taking in parts of the areas Clemens, Abruzzo and Negron now represent.

Abruzzo already vows to run in the southwestern Palm Beach County district that reaches into Broward – if it eventually is endorsed by the Supreme Court.

Sachs could choose to square off against Abruzzo there. Then again, she may move north from her current, Delray Beach residence, to the seat stretching from the West Palm Beach area to the Martin County line, an area she has never represented before.