By Steve Plunkett
The election to replace term-limited County Commissioner Steven Abrams isn’t until November, but already the race threatens to overshadow the March vote for two Boca Raton City Council seats.
Council member Robert Weinroth, who opened a re-election campaign account in June, shifted gears during Boca Raton’s official Jan. 2-10 qualifying period and filed instead to seek Abrams’ seat. He will face Mayor Susan Haynie, who opened a County Commission campaign account in October.
Weinroth, in a memo withdrawing from the City Council race, said it was “apparent” to him that Haynie’s campaign for the commission seat “has faltered.”
Weinroth switched races after a Palm Beach Post article in November questioned Haynie’s votes on matters involving James and Marta Batmasian, the city’s largest commercial landowners. The Batmasians also own most of a Deerfield Beach apartment complex that in 2010 hired Haynie and her husband as property managers.
Haynie said she voted on Batmasian projects in Boca Raton only after she asked for and received clearance from the county Ethics Commission. She resigned from her husband’s company in 2016 and announced in December that he had given up the Deerfield Beach work.
As of Dec. 31 Weinroth had amassed $115,905 in donations for his council re-election bid. Under state law he had to notify all contributors within 15 days that he changed races and offer to return their money.
Haynie sent a letter to all his donors Jan. 22 encouraging them to do just that.
“A donation to Robert’s County Commission campaign is a contribution opposing me,” Haynie wrote.
She also messaged her supporters, saying she was “all in, working hard and ready to go.”
“Despite the best attempts of my political opponents, my campaign continues to move forward and build support,” she wrote.
Haynie reported collecting $18,901 in donations as of Dec. 31. Her endorsements include Abrams, state Rep. Bill Hager, South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer and Vice Mayor Robert Gottlieb, Lantana Mayor Dave Stewart, former Ocean Ridge Mayor Ken Kaleel, incoming Delray Beach City Commissioner Bill Bathurst, Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers and City Council member Scott Singer, and former Deputy Mayor Michael Mullaugh.
Weinroth’s campaign war chest included donations of $1,000 each from James and Marta Batmasian, whom he linked to Haynie’s troubles. Their son Armen Batmasian also gave $1,000.