Coral Springs is the 12th largest city in the state with almost 125,000 residents and has a two to one Democratic voter registration advantage. The city last voted for a Republican Presidential candidate in 1988 and has not been represented in the state legislature by a Republican since before the 1982 redistricting. It is simply put a long-term Democratic bastion. Yet somehow the City Commission is currently controlled by Republicans to the tune of a 4-1 margin. It is a city I grew up in, attending elementary, middle and high school locally in the 1980s and 1990s; I then lived in once again for many years in the 2000s.
Like many cities Coral Springs has non-partisan elections. This has not prevented Republicans from targeting the city and creating a strong bench of potential candidates and skewing the governing of the city in a dangerous direction. For a municipality with a strong tradition of non-partisanship and the winner of numerous national good government awards, the rapid change in the commission’s composition over the past few election cycles has many locally staring into the abyss.
The right-wing leadership in the city has made lots of errors in how they run the city, but that is a topic for another day here. Right now the focus needs to be on how to oust the current conservative leadership in the city.
Mayor Vince Boccard and Commissioners Dan Daley, Larry Vignola and Tom Powers are all registered Republicans. They are not only registered Republicans but they advocate Republican causes and candidates for other offices as well.
In the 2000s when I was involved in several municipal elections in the city, partisanship wasn’t an issue though most candidates and voters were Democrats or NPAs. The issue of partisanship in the city became evident once the first of the current batch of commissioners was elected. Gradually the right wing overtook the commission and the city careened off its path dramatically.
Commissioner Powers is running for Mayor in November 2014. The hope among activists in the city is that former Mayor Roy Gold, a progressive who has dedicated 30 years of his life to bettering the city, will seek a return to public office and run against Powers.
Interestingly, the local Democratic party has taken little interest in Coral Springs elections in recent years. This has allowed the Republican faction in power to attract Democratic support and contributions. The lack of results-oriented accountability we have long seen on the state level among Democrats has begun to infiltrate Broward County, which is perceived as a bastion of liberalism. Coral Springs is a clear example of this.
The city, which was considered one of the most livable in Florida, isn’t considered one on the rise and upcoming any longer. By contrast, it is considered a city that is tired and has had its day. The decline ushered in by the current commission has left people clamoring for a change and a return to better days locally.
It is imperative that Democratic activists and officials in Broward County understand the stakes and get moving regarding Coral Springs.