I live in Hallandale Beach, and I’ll begin serving as a Precinct Captain in the city for the Broward Democratic Party next month.
Over the past six months, I had volunteered a lot of my time for the campaign to re-elect President Obama, and much of that effort had also focused on the municipal election in Hallandale Beach.
I’m going to look back on the Presidential, Congressional as well as the state and county elections here. Near the end, I’ll delve into Hallandale Beach’s elections, and I hope that readers will abide my interest in those local results.
Obama’s Victory & the End of Candidate Romney
While most of those who supported Mitt Romney for President probably believe that there were major and intractable differences between the two candidates, I will instead posit that there really were not.
The “triangulation” engaged by President Bill Clinton’s administration in the mid-90′s resulted in a Democratic President signing into legislation a number of efforts that were engendered by the Republican congressional majority. By eliminating regulations, banking and venture capitalism were allowed to engage in the kind of bubble economy that can create riches over the short term and cause massive financial damage in the long term. Bill Clinton took just about all the credit for an expanded economy, however, as well as for a peacetime end to his administration.
The Republicans tried everything to destroy President Clinton because gaining the White House through populist political rhetoric and legislative efforts isn’t really the Republican game. If the Presidency can really only be gained by attending to the interests of ordinary people, then the Republican Party will usually instead try to de-legitimize any Democrat who wins the office instead. They finally resorted to going straight for Clinton’s genitals.
George W. Bush was almost entirely un-equipped for the Presidency, but his gold ol’ boy style of populism as crafted mostly by Karl Rove and contrasted against Al Gore’s stiff persona and impersonal style worked to get Bush elected. He barely won re-election as much of the country was too afraid to change horses during an era of foreign terrorism striking within our borders. Initiating wars while simultaneously cutting taxes pleased the core of America’s right wingers, but massive destruction befell the economy and the nation’s psyche.
Barack Obama was the only Democratic candidate for the Presidential nomination other than Dennis Kucinich who had taken a stance against the Iraq War, and his refreshing persona during a time of crises and after eight years of right-wing extremism propelled him into the White House. By the time President Obama took office, the Republicans in Congress took a new tactic: oppose everything- even legislative efforts that had originally been promoted by Republicans and by conservative “think tanks.” That effort was continued over the last four years in the hope and in the expectation that any progress as evidence by legislation passed in Congress would be blocked.
We saw continual efforts by the Republicans working in lockstep to prevent President Obama and the Democratic Party from getting any credit for improving the jobs numbers- even for veterans- and for expanding access to health care. That effort at continual obstruction also strived to block even judicial and other Presidential appointments across the country.
Obamacare Engenders Backlash
The major reason for the GOP’s extraordinarily negative propaganda against “Obamacare” is very simply for the reason that any increased access to health care- including the ending of “pre-existing conditions”- will likely enhance the image of the Democratic Party and its current leader, President Obama.
“Obamacare” will be fully implemented in 2014. By then, we may very well see the image of the President and the Democratic Party enhanced. Most Americans who have seen their access to health care severely limited will be very happy with the changes implemented after a couple more years, despite an overwhelming onslaught of negative propaganda.
The Republican operatives have always known that tangible results will only be good for one side of the political aisle, most especially after years of lies and attempted obstruction. Efforts at negative propaganda and a very weak defense from the President have resulted in poll numbers that reflect widespread mistrust of “Obamacare.” Nancy Pelosi was absolutely right, however, when she had asserted that we need to experience the results of the legislation for average people to really know what’s in it.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has known all along that the potential to profit from those who lack access to health care will be made next to impossible by “Obamacare.” He claims to have divested in his “Solantic” clinics after criticism against his conflicts of interest.
No matter what Governor Scott’s financial stake really is, his business model of setting up emergency clinics issuing quick and easy consumer credit to those desparate for medical care probably won’t fly very well now that “Obamacare” is, as John Boehner called it last week, “the law of the land.”
The very idea of expanding health insurance coverage to millions of Americans no matter their ability to pay was what drove Scott to run for Governor in the first place. After his company paid the largest fine in US history for Medicare fraud, he used his millions earned as CEO of a criminal enterprise to launch a gubanatorial campaign with a huge advertising budget that won by 68,000 votes in the state.
Governor Scott then tried to limit access to voting by signing legislation that criminalized efforts to register voters and also limited access to the ballot box. He even reversed Governor Charlie Crist’s expansion of voting rights to ex-felons.
The very idea of the health insurance “mandate,” however, was hatched in conservative and GOP publications and conference rooms during the early part of the last decade. The “mandate” was promoted by, amongst others, Newt Gingrich, Orrin Hatch, The Heritage Foundation and by Mitt Romney, who passed a mostly indistinguishable legislative act in the state of Massachusetts.
“Obamacare” had been passed in Congress mostly because any other methods of expanding access to health care across the country had no possibility of passing. It got through congressional committees only by ensuring that private insurance companies, some of which have legalized monopolies in some states, could survive because government will persuade more Americans to buy in. Both the President and Congress also ensured that there was no chance for a “public option.” There’s really not an ounce of “socialism” in the bill.
The President had obviously hoped for Republican votes to ensure the bill’s passage. Congressional sponsors presented a bill based on Republican ideas for that very reason. Those ideas can be traced back to Republican efforts to counter “Hillary Care.”
In the end, however, the legislation passed without a single Republican vote because of their party’s determination to obstruct any progress engendered under President Obama. The Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority for 23 congressional working days- not the “two years” portrayed by the right-wing media. One result of winning the majority was passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, now known as “Obamacare.”
What all Democrats and anybody else should realize by now is that anytime major progress is achieved by Congress, including the Social Security Act, Medicare and Medicaid and the Civil Rights Act, we should all expect a major right-wing backlash. Republicans won the day after those prior efforts had succeeded, and that included the rise of the Dixiecrats, Barry Goldwater and the election and the re-election of Richard Nixon. In this era, the Tea Party had basically been birthed by “Obamacare.”
So it goes… for a while.
Legislative and Voter Obstruction
Shortly before early voting had begun in Florida for the general election of last week, the House defeated a bill designed to increase employment opportunities for veterans. It had been reported that two Republicans on the House floor had “high fived” each other after the bill was defeated. Any inkling of a further economic stimulus has been just about entirely blocked by Republicans.
Even when Democrats had held a majority in both houses, the filibuster forbade most efforts that might portray progress, and a lot of those Democrats voted along with the Republicans in many cases. What we’re seeing in both 2010 and in 2012, however, is that given a choice between a genuine Republican and a conservative and/or “Blue Dog” Democrat, voters will instead choose either the real thing as a Republican or a more progressive Democrat.
What we saw on Tuesday of last week was that the Republican tactics, mostly led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, finally did not work. Even average Americans who do not follow the political narratives stood in lines for many hours in several states.
Voters waited to vote until late at night in Miami-Dade County for a President who had already been declared re-elected. The Republican efforts in Tallahassee to cut early voting hours and add pages and pages of state constitutional amendments, some of which could not even be implemented under our federal Constitution, did not work to dissuade voters from waiting to vote.
Karl Rove and other GOP operatives had expected that the turnout in 2008 was historic and could not be repeated. They believed that youth voters, single women voters, racial and ethnic minority voters and other sporadic voters would not turn out again. They believed that the Democratic turnout would instead be much more like in 2004, when George W. Bush very narrowly won Ohio.
Rove Flopped. Romney Failed. Obama Triumphed
Instead, the youth vote matched that of 2008. The Latino vote exceeded the 2008 turnout. While there were approximately 8 million less votes overall in the nation-wide election than in 2008, President Obama won narrowly- over and over and over and over again.
The President won every swing state with only the exception of North Carolina. Overall, Democrats in Congress received more votes than all congressional Republicans. The Republican’s continued hold on the majority in the House is diminished, and that majority is clearly due only to extremely gerry-mandered districts across the nation. Re-districting is due again in a few years and may unlock that Republican hold on the House.
Mitt Romney’s efforts to distinguish himself from the Democrats by portraying himself as a “severe conservative” and by coddling a base of older, white and mostly male voters did not work. Romney achieved over 60% of the white male vote, as had Ronald Reagan. That was enough to give Reagan a landslide for his second term, but it wasn’t enough for Romney.
The demographics have changed, and even sporadic voters rejected the perceived Republican war on immigrants, on women, on non-whites, on the non-Evangelical and on civil rights for the LGBT community. Despite official unemployment numbers nearing 8%, most voters voted for President Obama to continue to find a strategy to deal with Republican congressional obstruction. Most voters prefered President Obama over Mitt Romney’s extraordinarily vague economic plans, let alone his past record and lack thereof.
Romney had served only a single term as Governor of Massachusettes, leaving the state 47th in the nation for job creation. He had vetoed well over 800 bills during his four years as Governor, the vast majority of which survived after veto overrides from the Democratic legislature. Outside of electoral politics, Romney had only acted as a perpetual candidate and as a salesman for wealthy investors, as well as continuing to serve as a Bishop in his church.
Like his father, Romney set precedent for releasing tax returns as a Presidential candidate, but he did so by refusing to release more than a couple of years while allegedly requiring those vetted to be his running mate to release at least ten years of returns. His own father had stated that any Presidential candidate should release no less.
Romney’s overseas investments and his privileged tax rates engendered a lot of speculation but little verified proof. He even declined deductions in his most recent return to avoid paying only about 9% in federal taxes, although he can now rectify that and retake those deductions.
Romney had supported abortion rights, gay rights and women’s rights as a senatorial candidate in Massachusetts, but he reversed himself after he and his advisors had reportedly perceived “shelf space” for the 2012 Presidential race as a right-wing Republican.
If Mitt Romney had been true to his convictions- which can only be imagined because he truly seems to have no convictions- then he should have supported and voted for President Obama rather than run against him. For corporate American and for the elite in our nation, Barack Obama has been the moderate Republican a guy like Mitt can apparently only dream of.
Republican Tactics Only Helped Democrats
In reality, Obama and Romney are very similar.
In reality, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are by now very similar.
Through the 90′s, the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton (and with the advice of Dick Morris) had maneuvered basically a corporate buyout of the Republican Party. The Republicans have been left flailing without enough of a base made up mostly of the fossil fuel industries in traditionally red states and older white voters.
The Republican candidates, fired up by the Tea Party, attempted to agitate the party’s base by insulting everyone other than white conservative men. Evangelical Christians attempted to justify federal intervention in abortion rights by redefining rape. The most determined side show acts, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, were giddy in their continual attempts to use racial animosities as a means to promote Mitt Romney for President.
Corporate America vs. Average America
Meanwhile, Wall Street, the financial sector, multi-national corporations and other major players in corporate America have done exceedingly well under the Obama administration. Corporate profits have been at record levels, some never seen before in human history.
The stock market and retirement portfolios have skyrocketed during Obama’s first term. Job numbers are the last to see improvement during any recovery from recession, however, and Republican obstruction has caused an especially sluggish recovery for average workers.
Republican operatives love to call Obama “the food stamp President,” but the largest employers such as Walmart seem determined to lower wages and restrict available hours to service workers. Employees across the spectrum in America gain no traction at all.
Food stamps aren’t just for the unemployed, however. American workers across the country qualify for both food stamps and Medicaid programs while remaining employed. Those public programs aren’t coddling the lazy. They’re subsidizing major corporate employers.
Profits are huge and corporate America has been sitting on trillions of dollars that they have so far refused to reinvest in our economy. Meanwhile, the average worker is either seeking steady employment or walking a treadmill of low expectations.
Obama’s Huge Win & the Republican’s Devastation
The Presidential race was close, as it was expected to be, and yet it was definitive. The President won both the electoral college by a very wide margin and the popular vote decisively. Democrats gained seats in the House as well as the Senate and held onto their senatorial majority.
Since the beginning of his first term, President Obama has continually remained very popular despite economic catastrophe shortly before he took office and continuing conflicts in the Middle East.
Legislation enhancing the ability for women to seek equal pay for equal work; for gays and lesbians to serve the country without fear of being investigated and dishonorably discharged; for the uninsured to acquire coverage and the insured to keep and enhance their coverage; and for the nation to finally see Osama Bin Laden eliminated from the face of the Earth were all part of Obama’s first four years.
Every effort to prevent a substantial voter turnout in Florida and across the nation failed miserably. The GOP has been left picking up the pieces and re-evaluating their electoral strategies. The Republican Party is hugely unpopular despite having a seemingly permanent hold on much of rural America and in what had been the slave states.
They did manage to just barely hold onto Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, however. Congrats for that, I suppose.
Florida & Broward
My ballot recommendations agreed with the end results for the most part with the distinct exception of the Broward Soil & Water Conservation District seats. There were a lot of votes for those two seats, and despite how obscure those two races were, voters chose the two candidates I had not recommended.
Democrats really triumphed in other races, however. Where we really triumphed were in races featuring some of the very worst Republicans. Those included, of course, the notorious Allen West, who still refuses to concede his Congressional seat as I write this. I expect that he’ll show up for Congress and argue with security at the opening of the next session.
Ellen Bogdanoff also lost, which is a huge, huge win for the State Senate. Bogdanoff represented the very worst of Republican legislators during her tenure in the State House, and her campaign against her Democratic opponent for the Senate had been exceedingly petty.
Lois Frankel won after a very, very determined and well-organized fight against the awful Adam Hasner. What a long, long campaign Lois had to endure, during which she had briefly fought against Allen West before he packed his carpet to try and bag another district.
Tim Ryan will be, I expect, a terrific addition to the County Commission, and other seats held by Democrats on that commission as well as in the state won re-election.
For non-partisan, at-large School Board seats, the Democratic stalwart Franklin Sands lost his runoff to Governor Scott’s appointment, but as awful as our Governor has been, Donna Korn hasn’t engendered mistrust on the School Board.
Robin Bartleman vanquished the ego-driven campaign of her opponent, so Robin can now continue to enhance her political reputation as an outstanding member of the School Board.
For district seats on the School Board, the good guys won, and that’s despite Republican Torey Alston’s reported effort to pass a palm card around that depicted him amongst a list of Democratic candidates on the ballot.
There was one huge shocker in the county elections, and that was Democratic candidate Scott Israel winning as County Sheriff. I hope that his win is an indication that voters have had quite enough of the Republican brand and are more willing to vote for the candidate running on the Democratic ticket no matter the incumbent and/or the office. Whether or not any Democratic candidate is truly deserving of the label should be the job of the party to determine, and that should occur before a candidate gets the party’s backing.
Hallandale Beach & Voter Turnout
As for Hallandale Beach, much of the city’s population does not regularly vote, and my efforts to ensure at least sufficient turnout by volunteering for Organizing for America and recruiting and training volunteers proved to be exceedingly difficult. It is very difficult to achieve a voter turnout that would match the ’08 election when Barack Obama is no longer a new figure on the national political scene, and it is even more difficult to get commitments for the hard work of phoning and canvassing.
We had registered new voters as well as updated voter registrations every day up until the October 8th deadline, despite restrictions implemented by the state legislature that were so preposterous that they were finally thrown out by the court. We walked through the parking lots of local retailers in oppressive heat with registration forms on our clip boards. We had set up a card table for months in front of the Hollywood Courthouse to register voters. We helped to exceed Organizing for America‘s goal of registering 300,000 new voters in the state.
We made calls and knocked on doors for months, slogging through tens of thousands of “not homes” and wrong numbers and the “not interested.” We directly reached a lot of potential voters who require numerous talking-to’s before they’ll actually get registered and then show up and vote. I had given my house over to Organizing for America for the final week before Election Day. I made up my own palm cards and distributed them door-to-door as well as at the early voting site when I could get away for a couple of hours from my house and the volunteers showing up to canvass.
Looking At the Commission Results
There were basically a third of all voters in each Hallandale Beach precinct that did not vote. The highest percentage of voter turnout was in Precinct Y008, which saw a turnout of 69.87% of all registered voters. The lowest turnout was in Y010, which had a turnout of 54.88%.
By today, we finally know that Michelle Lazarow received precisely one more vote than Anthony Sanders after an automatically required recount. That means that Ms. Lazarow will serve a full four-year term, while Vice-Mayor Sanders will serve only two because that’s what’s left of Keith London’s term after his resignation. A new Vice-Mayor will be appointed by the commission on Monday evening.
Keith London resigned his commission seat to run for Mayor effective midnight on November 6th. Mayor Cooper had also served as a commissioner and had resigned her seat immediately upon her decision to run for Mayor rather than waiting for the next election. We had expected a special election in January to fill London’s seat, and he had expected to run yet again in an attempt to regain his commission seat should he lose the mayoral race.
The State of Florida has a “resign to run” law that ensures that politicians cannot attempt to keep a foot in one elected seat while running for another, and London’s choice to resign his seat only on the eve of the general election attempted to minimize the impact of that law. A special election to fill his seat, however, was not required by our city charter other than by the way a provision had been interpreted.
Reading just a little further in the Charter made it clear that it is only necessary to accept the third-highest vote getter so close to a general election to fill the remainder of London’s term. Leo Grachow, a member of the city’s Charter Review Committee, brought that notion to Commissioner Alexander Lewy, who in turn took it to the commission and to the city attorney. Because London was therefore disallowed from re-running to get his seat back after losing his try for Mayor, Keith London deemed the commission’s interpretation of the city Charter as “arbitrary and capricious.”
Not holding a special election served several purposes, however, including saving the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars and preventing an election for commission seats that would provide absolutely the lowest turnout that any circumstance could possibly engender. The vast majority of the city’s voters would have remained unaware that a special election was being held no matter how much publicizing had been attempted.
Mayor Joy Cooper got 1,530 more votes than Keith London out of a total of 11,858 votes cast (50 votes went to a “write in”). Keith London was therefore immediately off of the city commission, as his resignation had already been effective by midnight on the eve of Election Day.
Bill Julian received more votes than any other commission candidate- 458 more than the second-highest vote getter. In all the canvassing I had done in the city over the past six months, I had heard a lot of inquiries about Bill Julian and I had never heard a negative word said about him from the voters I had contacted.
Michelle Lazarow’s presence in community affairs has been limited to campaigning for her election, attending commission meetings while running for a seat and attending Keith London’s “community meetings.” Ms. Lazarow received the highest votes after Bill Julian, however, according to the recount.
It may be presumed that a woman’s name on the ballot with Jewish ethnicity is an electoral advantage. That has also been a continuing issue with judicial elections because voters who don’t know about the candidates too often vote according to the sound of the candidate’s name. This is also borne out by Ann Henegison, the city’s “Scotch Tape” candidate who operates with zero budget for every commission election. Henigson got 1,585 votes.
Csaba Kulin got the lowest number of votes, likely because of his foreign-sounding name. Kulin ran a professional campaign that put an accent on positivity despite the inability of most voters to correctly pronounce his first name.
Anthony Sanders had been six votes ahead of Michelle Lazarow until the recount put him one vote behind. Sanders overcame a tremendous effort to portray both him and his wife negatively by Keith London over six years. He won re-election, but that one vote that confines him to only a two-year term evidences the significance of every vote in every election.
Our commission consists, therefore, of Mayor Joy Cooper and Vice-Mayor Anthony Sanders re-elected and Michelle Lazarow and Bill Julian taking the remaining two commission seats. Sanders’ title will revert to Commissioner after Monday’s meeting. Alexander Lewy will continue to serve his term until the next election in two years, and he is likely to be appointed by the new commission as the city’s Vice-Mayor.
Bill Julian regained a seat after losing in the previous election and after a long prior history of elected service to the city. Michelle Lazarow’s persona as a commissioner will be a new discovery for those who watch the goings-on at City Hall.
Should any of the currently elected commissioners choose to resign a seat, we could again expect that the fourth-highest vote getter would gain that seat. Currently, that’s Gerald Dean.
It should be noted that with the retirement of Dottie Ross from our city commission, none of our commissioners who will be sworn in at Monday’s special meeting have advanced academic degrees. Only one of the commissioners sworn in on Monday evening has no prior political experience. That new commissioner, Michelle Lazarow, also has, according to the Sun-Sentinel, exceedingly little experience voting in elections.
Looking at the Charter Results
I had fought really hard to prevent about fifteen changes to our city charter from appearing on the ballot. My efforts to prevent a cluttered municipal ballot included signing up for three minutes of “public participation” whenever charter changes were on the commission agenda.
The city’s Charter Review Committee had recommended a lot of changes to the charter that were not suitable, much like the state legislature attempted to change our state constitution in ways that were better suited to legislation, if they were at all legal under our federal Constitution. Most changes to our city’s policies that residents would like to see should be legislated by ordinance, not by amending the charter.
It’s typical that residents would want to see items fixed into our charter rather than legislated by our elected representatives. That displays an overall mistrust of representative government, but it’s the role of our elected representatives to filter that mistrust and ensure that only items appropriate for the city charter appear on the ballot.
Only one item that I had opposed got onto the ballot. What I had opposed was fixing the Charter Review Committee and its parameters into the charter. Instead, each committee and the determination of when and for how long they should meet should have remained under the purview of each city commission.
Otherwise, the other five changes to our city charter were needed, and they were good ones. All charter items on the ballot passed. That’s why it’s vitally important that the commission review the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations and vote to place only items relevant to the city charter on any ballot.
Turnout is a challenge in Hallandale and elsewhere, but I’m personally very happy about the results of last week’s election. In time, I hope that as many people as possible across the country will be satisfied with the results as well. If we focus on potential and recognize the motives of those who focus only on the negative, we have the best chance of satisfying more voters and of increasing voter turnout.
The next election will feature the effort to re-elect Governor Rick Scott. That may enhance what would otherwise be dismal turnout. The Governor’s extreme unpopularity may be the best thing for Democrats and for overall voter turnout.
Whether you volunteered on any of the campaigns in this last election cycle or you only showed up to vote, thanks for participating. Here’s to a continually brighter future for Hallandale Beach, and I wish all the very best for the happy retirement of Commissioner Dottie Ross. The city was privileged to have Dottie in a leadership role. Let’s continue to strive as Democrats in Broward County to have the effect on state-wide elections that we’re capable of. With enough turnout, Broward can swing the state.
I hope that however you voted in the election and to whatever extent you participated over the prior six months, all of us will move FORWARD together no matter our ages, our races, our personal wealth, our sexual and gender identities and our political affiliations.
We can do that, and we can make the best of our political dynamics for all of us by focusing on a better future. To lead that effort, Democrats in Broward should listen to one another, share ideas, get and stay involved and set an example for the local Democratic parties in South Florida and throughout the state.