By Steve Plunkett
Candidate Craig Ehrnst has taken a commanding lead in raising cash for his campaign to become a Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District commissioner.
Campaign finance reports filed for the period ending Aug. 26, the last deadline before the Aug. 30 vote, showed Ehrnst with $10,300 in contributions, compared with incumbent Dennis Frisch at $5,055 and challenger Shayla Enright with $450 in the Seat 1 race.
For Seat 3, candidate Erin Wright maintained her top ranking in campaign contributions but incumbent Earl Starkoff narrowed the gap. Wright had a cumulative $4,420; Starkoff $3,585. Challenger John Costello has not filed a finance report yet.
Business Leaders United for Boca Raton, the Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, gave $500 each to Ehrnst and Starkoff.
Citizens for Smart Growth, Efficient Government and Lower Taxes donated $1,000 to Ehrnst’s campaign. The organization’s president is Todd Richardson, whose election communications organization chased a candidate out of Boca Raton’s 2015 City Council race with an attack ad and website.
Ehrnst’s other contributors include developer Jamie Danburg ($1,000), his Danburg Management Corp. ($1,000) and Danburg-affiliated Boca Industrial Park Ltd. ($1,000); law firm Weiss Handler & Cornwell ($1,000); Boca Raton Public Safety PAC ($1,000); architect Derek Vander Ploeg ($250); and real estate developer Mark Guzzetta ($100).
Ehrnst’s expenses include $1,081 on a campaign website, $2,205 on direct mail printing, $342 on unspecified postage, and $1,036 on postage for absentee ballots.
Frisch took exception to an Aug. 24 email from Ehrnst announcing an endorsement from the Voters Coalition of Palm Beach County PAC, calling it a “sham.” A nonpartisan Palm Beach County Voters Coalition was dissolved in 2013, according to state records, Frisch said. The new coalition is weeks old and led by West Palm Beach attorney Leonard Feuer and former state Rep. Mary Brandenburg, a West Palm Beach Democrat.
Ehrnst dismissed the complaint. “I don't know why my opponent and his shills are targeting me with attacks when they should be targeted on making Boca Raton better!” he said on Facebook.
Among Frisch’s donations is $300 from construction firm NuJak, which is renovating the Science Playground at district-owned Sugar Sand Park. He also received money from city activists James Hendrey ($100) and Joe Pedalino ($100); from lawyers Spencer Siegel, who is president of the Boca Rotary ($200) and Mitchell Kirschner ($150); and fellow Beach and Park District Commissioners Robert Rollins ($250) and Steve Engel ($50).
Frisch said BocaWatch.org, which endorsed him and Starkoff, donated $1,000 worth of advertising. He also reported spending $1,106 on campaign signs and $188 on postage.
Enright’s contributions included a $100 check from West Palm Beach City Commissioner Cory Neering. She has spent $403 on campaign cards, T-shirts and Facebook ads.
In the Seat 3 race, Wright’s flow of contributions from firefighters slowed but still made up the bulk of her campaign war chest. She reported that she has spent $2,067 on mailers and $339 on advertising.
Starkoff’s campaign cash includes $500 from art gallery haitianart.com. He had expenses of $351, including $104 on printing.