Meet the Candidates
Incumbency in American political elections is a joke to be sure. For just a cursory example, every incumbent running for re-election for Florida state congress in 2004 won. If Jack Seiler wins re-election for the 2nd time this year he will have reached the half-way point of his potential term limit of 18 years. This will effectively mean that Fort Lauderdale has only had 2 Mayors in 28 years. Commissioners Bruce Roberts and Romney Rogers are, in fact, sailing to re-election unopposed for their third and final terms.
However, the other 3 races could represent a crucial change in the City's disastrous approach to homeless policy.
Outspoken "Rain Tree" advocate Chris Brennan and Republican Earl Rynerson are challenging Mayor Magic Jack for the big seat.
While Mr. Brennan does not have a campaign or website active as of yet, his involvement in the campaign to save the Fort Lauderdale Rain Tree would seem to place him in opposition to many of downtown's entrenched business interests.
Rynerson, despite carrying around the attribute of "Republican," (*City elections are non-partisan) opines regularly on his blog as a vocal critic of the Mayor, including against many of Seiler's most conversative stances. Therefore Rynerson is courting Seiler's foes in the fight for marriage equality (Rynerson is openly gay), homeless hate laws, police brutality, and yes, even the Rain Tree. So despite having lost this race to Seiler twice already, Rynerson has the unusual opportunity to challenge the Mayor when he has never been more unpopular, in part for his stances on these divisive issues.
|How popular can this guy still be..?|
Dean Trantalis, the only City Commissioner to show even the slightest bit of hesitation when it came to the City's march to criminalize homelessness, is being challenged by David Tabb, who is on the board of directors for Riverwalk. While Tabb also does not have a campaign set up just yet, Riverwalk representatives regularly spoke in support of the Homeless Hate Laws when they were being discussed throughout 2014. It is relatively safe to assume that Mr. Tabb would bring the Commission even further into the pockets of Fort Lauderdale's classist plutocracy.
The open seat for District 3 is the biggest opportunity for change in the City government in 2015, but it remains to be seen how much things will really "change."
Robert McKinzie, appointed by the City to close out Bobby Dubose's term, has already voted lock-step with the City on its remaining anti-homeless agendas, including voting to appeal the injunction against the sharing ban created in December by court order. McKinzie has already been the subject of criticism for carpet-bagging the Commission seat from the suburban comfort of nearby Plantation.
Donna Guthrie is also running for the seat and also spoke repeatedly at the City Commission in favor of anti-homeless laws on behalf of the Melrose Park Civic Association.
|Ortiz at a homeless rights forum in October 2014|
In the seriously unlikely chance that Magic Jack loses, Trantalis keeps his seat, and Ortiz wins D3, it would be a spectacular electoral coup; there would likely be a commission majority AGAINST homeless discrimination. However, even a seriously close race, especially a March run-off election for the Mayor's office or District 3's seat, would increase the likelihood of the candidate's positions on these unpopular policies having an effect on their success. It therefore increases the chance that even if the incumbents reign supreme in February, that they will see anti-homeless policies as a long-term threat to their political careers.
The election for Mayor and District 3 is February 10th. The District 2 election is March 10th.
*If any candidates for these races would like to further clarify their positions on this issue, let us know through the contact form. We are not going to track you down and interview you.*