S. Florida races on tap for Election Day

Aug 25, 2008


Miami Herald

All politics are local on Tuesday's ballot, with South Florida focusing on school boards, county commissions, referendums, legislative primaries and a cut-throat Democratic race to pick a challenger to Broward's Republican sheriff.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in both counties, the first major election to use new fill-in-the-bubble paper ballots instead of touch-screen machines.

The five-way contest to face Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti in November has been characterized by mudslinging, with fundraising front-runner Scott Israel bearing the brunt of the attacks for switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in November.

The North Bay Village police chief said he switched out of disgust about budget cuts by the Republican-controlled Legislature, but his critics note that he switched after Gov. Charlie Crist passed him over for the appointment to the sheriff's seat.

The other candidates for the most powerful countywide position in Broward are S. 'Shak' Dhanji, state human relations commissioner; Richard 'Rick' Lemack, Hollywood assistant city manager; Wiley Thompson, former chief of staff to former Sheriff Ken Jenne and Bruce Udolf, attorney and partner at Berger Singerman.

The sheriff's job is open because Jenne went to prison last year for mail fraud and tax evasion.

One of Miami-Dade's most-watched races will determine the fate of the Children's Trust, which is closing out its five-year pilot phase of using a special property tax to improve early-childhood education, after-school programs, summer camps and other services for kids.

A bipartisan panel of local luminaries has endorsed the plan to make the Trust permanent, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning. But the sour economy and voter frustration with half-measure tax cuts could put the program in danger.

School Board battles in Miami-Dade could carry the fate of Superintendent Rudy Crew, who narrowly survived a dismissal vote this month. Three of the four incumbents facing reelection supported Crew, and the defeat of any one could mean the end of Crew's tenure at the nation's fourth-largest school system.

County Mayor Carlos Alvarez is widely expected to win reelection against political novice Helen Williams. Miami-Dade also features six contested commission races, though most challengers brought low political profiles and little fundraising to the election. One possible exception is attorney Val Screen, challenging Commissioner Audrey Edmonson in Central Miami-Dade.

In Broward, County Commissioners John E. Rodstrom Jr. and Josephus Eggelletion Jr. and School Board member Beverly Gallagher also face spirited challengers. Property Appraiser Lori Parrish has a Democratic primary challenger in Sara Truini.

Southeast Broward features three former Democratic state representatives running in a heated race for a state Senate seat, and Miami-Dade has two Democratic and one Republican primary for legislative seats. Two others are 'universal primaries,' in which all voters can cast ballots because no one is running from the opposing party.

Both counties' ballots also feature judicial races, and Miami-Dade has a Democratic primary for the clerk of courts in which veteran politician Harvey Ruvin is being challenged by school library director David Nelson.

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