- By Lulu Ramadan Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
This post was updated with new information Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.
BOCA RATON — With Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie’s campaign struggling amid investigations into past financial ties to a controversial developer, will Haynie withdraw from the race for Palm Beach County Commission?
Some local political figures say she likely will — a move that would shake up Boca Raton politics in the coming months, and even years.
Haynie's campaign manager, Rick Asnani, said Tuesday that Haynie is not withdrawing from the race "as of today." The campaign will release a statement Wednesday however, Asnani added without revealing any further details.
If she leaves the race, it could throw local politics into turmoil.
Any campaign decisions would happen as Haynie is apparently being probed by at least two investigative bodies — the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics and the Florida Commission on Ethics — relating to her ties to Boca developer James Batmasian.
A property management firm founded by Haynie and her husband, Neil, had collected thousands of dollars from a company controlled by Batmasian and his wife, Marta, for at least seven years. All the while, Haynie voted a dozen times on proposals that benefited Batmasian without disclosing the connection, The Palm Beach Post reported in November.
One month after The Post’s story ran, she and her husband quit.
By the end of November, she had raised just $15,000.
If Haynie does withdraw from the County Commission race, she tosses a wrench in the already evolving race to finish out the remaining two years of her term. Three candidates — sitting Councilman Scott Singer, real estate agent Bernard Korn and attorney Glenn Gromann — and have filed to run in the special election, which would be held in 2019.
But if Haynie doesn't run for County Commission, she doesn't have to resign her seat as mayor — and that special election never happens.
Haynie, a Republican, is unopposed in the race for the southern Palm Beach County Commission seat, so an abrupt withdrawal would open the door for any politically ambitious locals. While the seat currently is held by a Republican, term-limited Steven Abrams, the district has a slight Democratic edge.
The timing of Haynie's anticipated statement aligns with the end of Boca's March municipal election qualifying period Wednesday. Two council seats held by incumbents, Robert Weinroth and Jeremy Rodgers, are on the ballot.
But Weinroth hasn't qualified as of Tuesday, and he flew to Tallahassee, raising the question of whether he plans to run in the council race.
Weinroth is a Democrat, and political ally of Haynie's. He and Haynie went to Tallahassee to attend the opening of the state legislative session. Will he make it back in time to qualify for the municipal election before the Wednesday 5 p.m. deadline?
Or has he set eyes on higher office, like Abrams' commission seat?
Apparently, he has. Weinroth told The Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett that he plans to run for Abrams’ seat, and does not intend to qualify in Boca Raton.
Weinroth's race has drawn one rival — Monica Mayotte, a 20-year Boca resident and the former member of the city's Green Living Advisory Board. She's also a past contributor to local blog BocaWatch, the creation of Haynie's political foe Al Zucaro.
Zucaro lost to Haynie in a contentious race for mayor last year. He's also the one who filed a complaint about Haynie's company and its ties to Batmasian with the state ethics commission, subjecting Haynie to a state probe.
If Weinroth leaves the council race, it's unlikely that Mayotte will be left unopposed, even if there is just one day left to qualify. After all, filing for a municipal election last-minute isn't exactly unusual in Boca Raton. (See: BocaWatch creator Al Zucaro files to run for mayor on last day of qualifying period.)
Update: Councilman Robert Weinroth told The Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett that he is, in fact, eyeing the Palm Beach County Commission seat, and does not plan to qualify the for Boca Raton municipal election.