They overwhelmingly rejected Angelo Castillo and his big-money backers. They put an arrogant Sunrise Mayor Roger Wishner on his backside with a stinging loss. They sent the carpetbagging party-changing Al Jones packing. They decided not to give former lobbyist Steve Geller another chance and returned his opponent, who truly fought for ethics reform, to her seat. They avoided making any huge mistakes in the judicial races, generally making solid choices (with a couple of exceptions).
The surprise of the night for me was the trouncing of Castillo. It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the support of Broward establishment lobbyists and contractors doesn't necessarily mean squat. All the power brokers' money went to lobbyist-friendly Castillo, who wanted to ride his top-heavy support to victory. But he ran into problems. There was that pesky conflict of interest with his day job at the Broward House. There was the Judy Stern problem. And let's not downplay what was a strong campaign by his opponent, Barbara Sharief, who set the right tone by talking of her
refusal to so much as meet with lobbyists. Sharief, a Miramar commissioner, also balanced the money scales by sinking $115,000 of her own savings into the campaign. (Castillo still had the edge with more than $140,000.) Word is the unions also played a role in Sharief's victory, motivated by the privatizing of government employees in Castillo's old stomping ground, the City of Pembroke Pines.
I'm happy to report that the only candidate that received a Pulp anti-endorsement fell. Yes, Wishner got smoked by attorney Mike Ryan. It's a beautiful thing because you get the sense that voters actually held Wishner accountable for his bad acts. Wishner sold out to Ruden McClosky when he backed the expansion of the Everglades Corporate Park, infuriating environmentalists. Then he got behind that "Green Now" garbage dump being pushed by his old buddy, Jim Feeley. That was the key moment in my opinion, because it not only exposed Wishner as a very poor mayor but also vaulted Ryan, a key organizer in opposition to the dump, into a political career. Commissioner Sheila Alu also played a role in Wishner's downfall, not only by leading the fight against both the Everglades Corporate Park and the dump but by publicly announcing that she wouldn't support his reelection.
Amazingly, despite the loss, Wishner is expected to shuffle off to his former seat and remain in office. There may be a challenge to that in the works. Will report more later.
I could go in-depth on a lot of this stuff, but here are some quick observations:
-- To cap off a nasty race, Steve Geller had to pull off the sore-loser act. Ron Gunzburger, the architect and construction chief of his mother's campaign, said he learned from a TV station that Geller said he would never call to congratulate the victor. Bad form.
-- The couple of the night was the Gottliebs. Ken Gottleib cruised to victory in his judicial race, and his wife, Jennifer, bested her two opponents in her School Board race. But there is also drama as to whether Jennifer Gottlieb can avoid a runoff. At the time of this writing, with 776 of 779 precincts counted, she's at 49.97 percent of the vote, right under that 50 percent mark she needs to win outright. The opponent who would get into the runoff isn't, alas, Nick Sakhnovsky, my lone endorsee, but Susan Madori, who made better than 29 percent of the vote.
-- One couple that didn't fare so well was the Seidmans. Tough night in the Seidman house, with Lee Jay getting crushed by Sandra Perlman in his circuit judge race by a 68-32 margin and his wife, Laura, the former general counsel for the North Broward Hospital District, getting walloped by incumbent Lisa Porter even worse (70-30).
-- Having a big night was veteran politico Dan Lewis, whose candidates, Porter and Kenneth Gillespie, rolled over their opponents. The so-called "Jewish-sounding names" in the judicial elections almost all got skunked, preserving minority judges like Elijah Williams, Carlos Rodriguez, Gillespie, and other seats that Lewis set out to protect. Lewis' nemesis, Judy Stern, didn't fare so well, what with Castillo and Geller going down. I asked Lewis if it was true that he and Stern had buried the hatchet. "Probably only in each other's skull," said Lewis. "Look, I think she has a lot of talent, but I think she's got a corrupting influence on anything she touches."
-- In other School Board races, incumbent Ann Murray and newcomer Patti Good both won seat. Phyllis Hope and Laurie Rich Levinson are in one runoff, and Dave Thomas will be in a runoff with Jaemi Levine while Nora Rupert and Travis Williamson will square off for Bob Parks' (really really) old seat.
-- Bravo to Beverly Kennedy, who with almost no money managed to get 35 percent of the vote in her battle with Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl. You know who liked Kennedy's numbers more than anybody, though? Chip LaMarca.
-- Is this the longest night of incumbent Judge Carlos Rebollo's life? His race with Bob Nichols has been incredibly close from the very first precinct and has gone back and forth a little. Right now, with 776 of 779 precincts counted, Rebollo has 60,166 votes and Nichols 59,206. Too close to call, obviously, but that's actually one of the more comfortable leads either guy has had all night.