Non-partisan elections often give transactional Democrats the cover they need to support Republicans and business interests at a local level. The nature of local elections makes it easy for some Democrats to claim that they are wonderful partisan progressives while playing ball with the interests that hurt working people in their own backyards.
Since we have spent so much time on Coral Springs’ city elections recently let us use that as an example. Former Coral Springs Mayor, Scott Brook a registered Democrat whose election in 2006 began to usher in an era of fiscal irresponsibility and political games at City Hall has publicly endorsed conservative Tom Powers for Mayor of Coral Springs and Laurette Homan for City Commission. Both candidates are facing strong opposition in the November election, and Homan has been taken under her wing by the city’s current conservative/Tea Party-oriented leadership. Brook supported conservative Vincent Boccard in 2012 for Mayor. Coral Springs is one of the largest cities in the state where the majority of city officials are registered Republicans. This comes despite a more than 20-point Democratic registration and double-digit performance advantage in the city.
County Commissioner Stacy Ritter has also endorsed both Homan and Powers. Commissioner Ritter has a history of attacking leading statewide Republicans going back to her time as a State Representative. Included among Ritter’s frequent public targets were Jeb Bush and Rick Scott and she was an early support of President Obama, endorsing him in 2007, long before many other Democrats in south Florida came around to his side. Yet she has endorsed two registered Republicans in Coral Springs and in 2012 was the only Democratic County Commissioner to vote against Commissioner Kristin Jacobs’ Wage Theft proposal. Ritter and her husband Russ Klenet hosted a fundraiser for Tom Powers in September.
Several prominent Broward based lobbyists who self -identify as Democrats have given money to Powers. This is in addition to large sums of developer money that has flowed into Powers’ campaign accounts as we discussed yesterday. They are betting Powers wins election and continues the current policies of the Tea Party driven commission. Many of these same individuals and entities have donated to Homan’s campaign. Others who have been part of Democratic organizations locally have privately steered support towards Powers and Homan.
Skip Campbell, the 2006 Democratic nominee for Attorney General and former State Senator representing most of the city (1996 to 2006) is Power’s opposition. Campbell, a well-connected trial attorney whose public record speaks for itself would bring breadth of seriousness and stature to a city whose government has rapidly turned into a joke.
Coral Springs Commissioner Dan Daly, seen as a potential rising star in Broward County political circles is a registered Republican who has closely aligned with the city’s conservative leadership. Yet the non-partisan nature of Coral Springs elections has allowed Commissioner Daly to skirt around the partisan question, perhaps preserving himself for a future run as a Democrat for higher office.
The problem of non-partisan elections giving cover to Democrats who want to acquire or maintain influence in local politics. Coral Springs is a city with a close to 20-point Democratic registration advantage yet has a 4-1 Republican commission. The non-partisan nature of the commission has allowed those like Daly and others to preserve themselves for possible future runs as Democrats in this heavily Democratic area while benefiting from the local GOP and Tea Party commitment to building the bench at the municipal level. One cannot blame Daly and those like him for seeing this situation and taking advantage of it, being able to keep a foot in both doors and cultivating relationships with local transactional Democrats.
The situation in Coral Springs is an extreme example of what goes on around the state. Non-partisan elections have been used as cover by Democrats who want to maintain influence and credibility with the business community. While I do not necessarily think municipal elections should be partisan, Democrats who claim to be partisans should be held accountable for crossing the line in these types of races AND those who are registered Republicans and support a Tea Party type agenda should not be able to walk into the Democratic Party when it is politically expedient and expect the support of progressives.