UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM
Statement from Senator Jeff Clemens on Tuesday 2/10: “I am in no way working on the Kimberly Mitchell campaign. I have not talked to Kimberly Mitchell in three years. I am not involved in the West Palm Beach Mayor’s race. Any reports to the contrary are untrue.”
Earlier today, our friends at Saint Petersblog, penned an excellent article about Landslide Strategies, LLC. Here at The Florida Squeeze, we have also been working on sorting through this issue, albeit with a more hyper-partisan perspective. Our reporting can confirm much of what was in the SaintPetersBlog article.
First some thoughts on Commissioner Kim Mitchell who has become a fixture in local West Palm Beach politics over the last 13 years.
Commissioner Mitchell was first elected in March 2002 thanks largely to the efforts of seven gated communities on the edge of the city of West Palm Beach that wanted a stronger voice in municipal government. Mitchell defeated Commissioner Mary Brandenburg (later a State Representative) in an acrimonious campaign. These gated communities have largely different interests than the rest of the city and Mitchell has been carrying the water for these communities at city hall during her thirteen years on the Commission.
Mitchell is not the type of person most on the progressive side of the ledger would want to see elected to anything, especially a prominent public position like Mayor of West Palm Beach. Should a Republican, especially one as well-connected as Mitchell obtain the Mayor’s seat in West Palm Beach, the GOP would have a ready made star as the highest-profile political figure in major Florida media market. Lois Frankel used this Mayor’s office to bag a Congressional seat, something she was unable to do when she ran as a State Representative or when she sought statewide office in short-lived run while serving as House Minority Leader.
As Ryan Ray in SaintPetersBlog points out, Mitchell’s statewide Republican connections are extensive. Mitchell’s mother is the immediate past Chairwoman of the Republican Party in Palm Beach County, while her brother was a leading aide to CFO Tom Gallagher. Her ex-husband is Republican super-lobbyist Richard Pinsky who actively supports her bid for Mayor. These connectionscould make Mitchell a prominent spokesperson for the statewide GOP and a symbol of party that needs someone other than white males to put forward in front of the public.
The Mayor of West Palm Beach gets constant airtime on the local TV stations and is constantly generating press. For this reason among other the idea of leading Democrats working to elect Mitchell is simply not acceptable. Senator Jeff Clemens has made a habit of meddling in local elections in the last year and his involvement while disappointing is really not terribly surprising. His quick five-year rise to the State Senate from Lake Worth Mayoral hopeful owes itself to good timing and some extremely good fortune. Clemens tended to benefit from both in the last year when immersing himself in various local campaigns in 2014. Rumors that were never properly substantiated floated that Clemens was working closely with some Republicans during the election cycle. The Saint Petersblog article makes mention of multiple Republican Senators support for Melissa McKinlay who was elected to the Palm Beach County Commission last year after a bruising primary and general election. Senator Clemens was seen as the driving force behind McKinlay’s run and was given his due by this site and others after her victory. While the Senator may have gotten away with all of that in 2014, this move smacks of a certain amount of arrogance and will likely not be well-received or forgiven by many local activists.
NOTE THE ABOVE STATEMENT FROM SENATOR CLEMENS
Beth Kennedy, as a long-term Democratic political operative (full disclosure, Beth and I have worked on many projects together in the past beginning in 2002 and I happen to like her a great deal personally) has the cover of a non-partisan election which to defend her actions. She needs to make a living and as someone who took advantage of the guise of “non-partisan” elections over a decade ago in Palm Beach County to make money (something I like to look back on as a youthful indiscretion) I am really not in a position to condemn her. However, I never would have worked for someone like Mitchell for an office as prominent as the Mayor of West Palm Beach. Ultimately, working for Mitchell is her choice but it does call into her progressive bonafides.
As for Eric Conrad, he is a rising star in the Democratic Party statewide and this is hopefully just an error in judgment on his part. But it’s the type of mistake he must be called on and hopefully will learn a lesson from.
While it is true Democrats must work with Republicans at some basic level, working for a Mayoral Candidate tied into the GOP power structure in the center of a major media market is simply treacherous. Kimberly Mitchell being elected Mayor of West Palm Beach would be BAD for progressives and EVEN WORSE for the Democratic Party. Backing her is simply not acceptable behavior by Democrats or progressive so let us hope this is simply a one-off for all those reported to be involved.
3PM 2/11 UPDATE: Landslide Strategies LLC received a $2,500 check from the Kimberly Mitchell Campaign on January 12, 2015.