Nearly 20 months remain until term-limited Palm Beach County Commissioner Jess Santamaria leaves office in what promises to be a blaze of condemnation for colleagues who routinely fail to live up to his standards.
Potential candidates for Santamaria’s western county District 6 seat are already starting to take a look at the 2014 race.
Democrats considering the District 6 race include Port of Palm Beach Commissioner Wayne Richards, Indian Trail Improvement District board member Michelle Damone, Royal Palm Beach Councilman (and Santamaria administrative assistant) Fred Pinto, former Wellington mayor and councilwoman Kathy Foster and former Royal Palm Beach councilwoman Martha Webster.
On the GOP side, former Wellington councilman and mayor Carmine Priore is considering a run. So is Andy Schaller, who ran for the seat in 2010 as a no-party candidate but later switched his registration to Republican.
Democrats enjoy a 42.7-to-30.2 percent registration advantage in District 6. Santamaria regularly declares he’s not a politician, but he did have the political savvy to switch his registration from no party to Dem shortly before running for the seat in 2006. And in 2007, Santamaria helped out his party — and his own 2010 reelection prospects — when he effectively killed a GOP-backed effort to make commission races nonpartisan.
Santamaria says it’s too early to support a potential successor. When or if he does, Santamaria says, he’ll look for a candidate with “the same ethics and morals and honesty and integrity that I have tried to project.”
Santamaria says most of his colleagues disappoint him.
“Four or five commissioners are supporters of special interests,” Santamaria said last week. When asked to identify them, Santamaria told the Politics column to look at the board’s recent vote to allow development on an abandoned golf course near Century Village of West Palm Beach and the commission’s recent vote on impact fees.
On the golf course vote, Commissioners Steven Abrams, Mary Lou Berger, Priscilla Taylor and Shelley Vana voted for the development while Commissioners Paulette Burdick and Hal Valeche joined Santamaria in the minority.
On impact fees, Burdick and Valeche sided with the Century Village Four in a 6-1 vote in which Santamaria was the lone dissenter. The vote raised impact fees, but not as high as Santamaria wanted.
— Former Republican state Rep. Carl Domino is considering a run for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat held by freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.
Domino, a state House member from 2002 to 2010 who was a driving force behind Florida’s property tax portability law, said consultant Randy Nielsen is helping him set up an exploratory committee. Nielsen’s clients have included state Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, who’s also eyeing the congressional race but says she probably won’t decide until May.
“I don’t think there’s any way that both Gayle and I will be running,” said Domino.
Nielsen said his involvement should not be taken as a sign that Harrell will skip the race.
Domino, who listed his 2011 net worth at $24.2 million, has been willing to open his personal checkbook for some of his past runs. He spent about $200,000 of his own money on a 2012 comeback bid, finishing second in a five-candidate GOP state House primary to eventual state Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta.
— There was plenty of thoughtful, big-picture discussion when CNN analyst and serial presidential adviser David Gergen held forth on political leadership and dysfunction last week at Palm Beach Atlantic University. But the tidbit that left some in the crowd of 400 chattering afterward was Gergen’s revelation that after voting for Barack Obama in 2008, he didn’t vote for Obama or Mitt Romney in 2012.
“I didn’t vote Republican this last time around,” former Nixon-Ford-Reagan-Clinton adviser Gergen told former Sen. George LeMieux at the kickoff event for PBA’s Lemieux Center for Public Policy. “I voted for Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg, a write-in, because he’s my kind of leader. He’s very socially liberal but he’s very tough-minded on the fiscal side and I think he’s been a great leader.”
— A second vote reaffirmed David Schumacher as the new president of the Mid-County Democratic Club last week. Schumacher ousted former club prez Allen Mergaman in a February vote, but the county Democratic Party threw out the results and ordered a new election after determining the initial vote wasn’t conducted properly.