In Hallandale Beach, a city commissioner is defending his record after being caught on tape bragging that a developer would bring him hundreds of campaign workers. In Hollywood, two longtime politicians and an activist are competing to replace the retiring mayor. In Fort Lauderdale, the only Republican legislator who calls Broward home faces his first viable challenger in years.
Welcome to elections in Broward — Florida’s bluest county and home to more than one million voters.
While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, followed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his challenger U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, will be the main draw on Nov. 8, voters will also be electing members to Congress, the state Legislature, the county commission and city commissions.
The county will start mailing domestic absentee ballots around Oct. 11 and early voting begins Oct. 24.
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There are more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans in Broward, so the winners of the Democratic primaries are virtually guaranteed to win the Nov. 8 election.
That includes U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who beat Nova Southeastern University law professor Tim Canova in the primary. She now faces Republican Joe Kaufman, whom she beat in 2014 by a landslide.
Three other Democratic members of Congress from South Florida — Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings and Lois Frankel — are heavy favorites to win their races.
Local candidates face the challenge of raising enough money to send mail that will get noticed in the deluge of advertising for national and statewide races.
How local candidates align with Trump or Clinton can spill over into their own races.
“Some higher-up races are a little more dependent on Clinton. Lower ballot races it has relevance, but less,” said Broward Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar.
Running as a Republican in Broward can be a challenge, but the county GOP chairman, Bob Sutton, tells candidates to get out there and meet voters in person.
“There is nothing nonpartisan that happens in Broward County,” he says. “You have to get to the voters, let them know who you are and how you want to help them.”
Here’s a look at some of the races on the ballot:
In Broward, 19 municipalities have races, including the contest to replace retiring Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober.
The battle is a three-way contest between state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, City Commissioner Patricia Asseff, and Joshua Levy, a past member of the city’s planning and development board and a past president of the Hollywood Hills Civic Association.
Sobel has been in politics since the 1990s and has been a city commissioner, state legislator and school board member. In 2007, when she ran for the school board, she promised to complete her term if she won, but then the next year she ran for the state Senate. She has raised about $99,000 through Aug. 31.
While in the Legislature, Sobel was a leader in reforming the Department of Children and Families following the Miami Herald “Innocents Lost” series.
She is critical of decisions by the city, such as scaling back employee pensions, which was approved in a voter referendum in 2011. Sobel was endorsed by the police and fire unions.
“I’m the outsider,” she said. “I’m not part of the system.”
Joshua Levy, a lawyer, lost a city commission race about eight years ago. But he has drawn attention this time, partly because of endorsements by elected officials, including former County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger of Hollywood. Levy has served on the city’s planning and development board and as a past president of the Hollywood Hills Civic Association. He has raised about $46,000.
Levy says he offers a different voice.
“The city of Hollywood has changed demographically — it is a younger city, a more diverse city,” he said. Levy says the city needs to expand its commercial tax base to reduce the tax burden on residents.
Commissioner Patricia Asseff, the lone Republican in the race, has raised about $102,000. Technically the race is nonpartisan, but party politics could play a role behind the scenes in the Democratic-dominated city. Sobel is a longtime Democrat, while Levy switched his registration from no party affiliation to Democrat in May.
But it’s possible for Asseff to pull off a victory despite her party affiliation. She has been outspoken about the need to address climate change, has been endorsed by some Democratic politicians, and voters know her through her tenure on the commission.
As a city commissioner, Asseff said she worked to improve neighborhoods in her beachfront district and got 52 streets paved. She wants to bring neighborhood improvements citywide.
While Sobel “has done a fine job in Tallahassee,” Asseff calls herself the “hometown person.”
“I have the internal knowledge of what is going on in the city,” she said.
Orlando Raez also filed to run, but he told the Sun Sentinel he was pulling out of the race after raising no money.
In Hallandale Beach, longtime Commissioner Bill Julian faces Realtor Anabelle Taub. This is a battle about ethics and divisions at City Hall.
Julian could be vulnerable because of publicity surrounding an investigation by the Broward State Attorney’s Office. It’s unclear whether prosecutors will make a decision on charges before the election.
In August, WPLG Channel 10 broke a story that contained a recording of Julian making comments related to his actions in favor of a $450 million condo and hotel project at the Diplomat Golf and Tennis Club. In the phone recording — which he didn’t know was being made — Julian is heard saying that a lawyer for the developer promised him hundreds of campaign workers and that the developers would buy a van for his pet charity, a local food bank.
“Under the advice of my attorney I’m not allowed to talk about anything connected to that yet until it is resolved,” Julian said.
He stressed his long roots at City Hall, and his efforts to help the needy and keep taxes low. He was first elected in 2001, lost in 2010 and won again in 2012.
Taub is a newcomer to politics. She says she wants to improve public safety and be a watchdog on public spending.
“I am tired of the culture of corruption that exists in Hallandale Beach,” she said.
There are two factions on the Hallandale Beach City Commission: Julian is aligned with the majority and Mayor Joy Cooper, while Taub is supported by Commissioners Keith London and Michele Lazarow.
Julian has raised about $62,500, while Taub has raised about $25,400.
Lazarow, who has raised about $93,000, faces a challenge from former City Commissioner Alexander Lewy, who has raised about $34,000. Lewy had stepped down from his commission position in 2014 when he took a job with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but now works for the Alzheimer’s Association. A third candidate, Ann Henigson, has raised $1,200.
All but one of the Broward County commissioners are Democrats — the lone Republican is Chip LaMarca. He is supporting the only Republican candidate who has name recognition: former Broward Emergency Management director Chuck Lanza, who is taking on former state Sen. Steve Geller, a Democrat. Both candidates live in Cooper City and are vying to replace Lois Wexler, who is retiring.
Lanza, running in his first race, has raised $34,000. Geller, a lawyer, has raised $207,000. The district leans heavily left.
Lanza left his Broward job in 2014 to become a consultant. He previously served as emergency manager for Miami-Dade County as well as the fire chief for the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Parkland Mayor Michael Udine will face a write-in candidate in a northwestern district county commission race.
The most competitive state legislative race in Broward is a contest for a seat currently held by state Rep. George Moraitis — the only Broward-based legislator who is a Republican.
Former Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, a Democrat, is taking on Moraitis.
Both Moraitis and Keechl are lawyers who live in Fort Lauderdale. Moraitis has raised about $197,000 while Keechl has raised $76,000.
Moraitis was first elected in 2010 and has easily won re-election since that time against longshot candidates.
Keechl became Broward’s first openly gay elected county commissioner in 2006. But after questions about his lavish campaign spending, he was ousted by Republican Chip LaMarca in 2010. Keechl has since lost two county commission races.
But this could be a competitive contest if high Democratic turnout for Clinton prompts voters to cast ballots for other Democrats, including Keechl. The district leans slightly to the right, so Moraitis and Keechl will compete for the large share of independents.
Sheriff Scott Israel, Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes and Brenda Forman, who is running for the seat held by her clerk of courts husband Howard Forman, all easily won their primaries and will face write-in candidates.
Voters will also be asked whether they want to approve a half-cent sales tax increase for countywide transportation projects and a half-cent increase for local improvement projects in cities. Both questions must pass for the tax to be implemented. The Broward County sales tax is currently 6 percent.