Broward County has been in the national political spotlight in recent months as U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has faced the battle of her political career to fend off the a well-funded candidate in the Democratic primary.
But on Aug. 30th, Broward voters will cast ballots in a long list of races, including for U.S. Senate, sheriff, supervisor of elections, clerk of courts, county commission, school board and judges.
The hottest race in the left-leaning county is the Democratic primary between Wasserman Schultz, who has served in office for more than two decades, and Tim Canova, a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern university law professor. Both have raised more than $3 million, allowing them to blanket the district with mailers and TV ads.
Canova and Wasserman Schultz have appeared before multiple groups of Democratic primary voters across the district, which stretches from Weston to northern Miami-Dade.
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“Both of them have worked very hard to get the vote out here and we will see what happens,” said Sophie Bock, longtime Democratic club president at Century Village in Pembroke Pines.
Wasserman Schultz resigned as DNC chair in July following the publication by WikiLeaks of thousands of DNC emails showing the party favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Clinton has campaigned for Wasserman Schultz, while Sanders endorsed Canova.
The Democrat who wins is virtually guaranteed to win in the left-leaning district Nov. 8th. The Republican candidates are lawyer Marty Feigenbaum and activist Joe Kaufman.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-1 in Broward, so the most competitive contests are Democratic primaries, including the statewide Senate primary. With one week to go before the primary, about 66,000 of 1.1 million voters had already cast ballots by mail or early voting sites.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the most noteworthy Broward races on the ballot:
Supervisor of Elections
Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes faces a challenge from David Brown, a political consultant who owns a promotional products company. Both are Democrats. Snipes was first appointed to her position by then Gov. Jeb Bush after he removed Miriam Oliphant for botching the 2002 primary. Snipes has easily won elections three times, but has never faced a viable challenger.
For years, the mantra about Snipes was that she was “better than Oliphant” — and Snipes has often reminded voters that she cleaned up the office after Oliphant.
But there has been growing frustration with her office about her operations, including her reluctance to make her website more user friendly, her sluggish response to media requests and slow tabulation of results and poor relationship with the County Commission, which funds her office. Snipes did make it easier for voters to cast ballots by mail this year by covering the postage costs on return envelopes.
The Sun Sentinel editorial board wrote Snipes “is too disconnected from the office's operations, too unaware of its failings and too slow to make improvements.”
Unlike past years, a long list of influential leaders have publicly called for Snipes’ ouster. Brown has gotten endorsements from about four dozen former or current elected officials, including former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, Property Appraiser Lori Parrish and several mayors. He was also endorsed by some major unions, including the AFL-CIO. While Brown has connections to many of these officials through his own political work, it’s unusual for so many sitting politicians to endorse the opponent of an incumbent.
Brown has raised about $55,000 while Snipes raised $49,000.
Sheriff, clerk of courts and property appraiser
In the sheriff’s race, incumbent Scott Israel, who won his first term in 2012, faces three challengers with law enforcement experience: James Fondo, Willie Jones and Edison Jules. None of the challengers have the name recognition that Israel has. He has raised about $400,000 — more than his challengers combined.
Longtime Clerk of Courts Howard Forman is retiring, which created a rare open race for the seat. Mitch Ceasar, the longtime Broward Democratic party chairman and lawyer, has raised about $250,000 — more than twice as much as Elizabeth Ann McHugh, administrative director for Public Defender Howard Finkelstein. Forman’s wife, Brenda Forman, who works in the clerk’s office, has raised $42,000.
Marty Kiar, the current county mayor, won the property appraiser seat unopposed. He will replace Parrish, who is retiring.
A state Senate race has been an expensive Democratic bloodbath between two lawyers: former state Sen. Jim Waldman and Gary Farmer, who lobbies for trial lawyers. Both have tried to cast doubt on the other’s Democratic credentials.
Waldman said that Farmer’s claim in a mailer that he “received an A from the NRA” is “an absolute lie.” The NRA once listed Waldman at an A, but spokespersons for the NRA said that information was wrongly listed and that Waldman received a D or F in previous races. PolitiFact Florida rated Waldman’s claim True.
Farmer raised about $556,000 and loaned himself $103,000. Waldman raised about $393,000 and loaned himself $202,500.
State Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed, who has raised about $24,000, is also running.
Three candidates who have served in the state Legislature are running for county commission.
The most competitive race is between Sen. Chris Smith, who is challenging County Commissioner Dale Holness in a black majority district that includes parts of Fort Lauderdale and many other cities. Holness has raised about $372,000, while Smith raised $224,000.
Former state Sen. Nan Rich has raised four times as much as Weston City Commissioner James Norton for a seat in western Broward. The seat is currently held by Kiar, who will become the property appraiser in January.
Former state Sen. Steve Geller faces businessman Wayne Arnold, who is self-funding his campaign. The seat in central/western Broward is open because Lois Wexler is term limited.
Three incumbents on the school board are running to keep their nonpartisan seats. The incumbents are far ahead of their challengers in fundraising.
The best-known challenger is Nathalie Lynch-Walsh, who has held several volunteer positions in the school district, among them on the audit committee and facilities task force. She is running against School Board Member Rosalind Osgood.
Robin Bartleman faces challenger Sharnell Selena Jackson, a former Dolphins cheerleader, while Patricia “Patti” Good’s lead opponent is activist Rose Walker-Williams.
Several judicial candidates are also on the ballot.
Activists from both parties encourage voters to participate in the primary as a dry run for the Nov. 8 general election, when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will drive up turnout.
“I hope people get out to vote,” Bock said. “It's the will of the people — that’s the way it should be.”
Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this article.