Large turnout gives mayor mandate to serve until 2020
Scott Singer celebrates his victory for the mayor’s seat in Boca Raton with a crowd of supporters on election night. Singer received about 63 percent of the vote to about 34 percent for runner-up Al Zucaro. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Steve Plunkett and Mary Hladky
Boca Raton voters handed Scott Singer a commanding mandate Aug. 28 to lead the city into the 2020s.
“I’m glad that a lot of our city spoke tonight,” Singer said. “I love serving this city, and I’m so grateful to get the opportunity to continue serving.”
Turnout was high, with 18,622 ballots cast in the three-way mayor’s race, compared with 11,783 two years ago. Unofficial results from the Supervisor of Elections Office had Singer with 63 percent of the vote, immigration lawyer Al Zucaro with 34 percent and real estate broker Bernard Korn at 3 percent.
“The strong support, the overwhelming support that the voters gave for our collaborative partnership with residents and a community message of positivity makes me feel proud to be a Boca Ratonian and makes me feel honored to be a public servant in Boca,” Singer said.
The race for City Council Seat A was a near tie with only three votes separating lawyer Andy Thomson, at 7,879, and organizational psychologist Kathy Cottrell, at 7,876 early on Aug. 29.
Both the mayor’s opening and the City Council race resulted from Mayor Susan Haynie’s suspension from office in April after she was charged with official misconduct and perjury.
Singer will serve until March 2020 and then be able to run for two full three-year terms. If Haynie wins her case before her 2020 term expires, she would return to office and Singer would vacate the seat.
The polls closed at 7 p.m., and Zucaro conceded the race at 8:32 after the vote tallies in 25 of 38 city precincts showed him falling well behind Singer.
“I don’t see a possibility of winning,” he told about 45 supporters who gathered at the Griddle restaurant.
Singer, who urged voters to “keep Boca’s new mayor,” was elected to the City Council in 2014 and re-elected in 2017. An attorney, Singer reprised his council re-election mantra as “a leader who listens to residents” but added “and delivers results.” Most recently he was instrumental in negotiating a deal with the School Board to build a new elementary school on city-owned land by Don Estridge High Tech Middle School.
He was also the frontrunner in raising donations. Singer opened his campaign account in October when Haynie was expected to resign as mayor to run for the County Commission this November and create an opening for a March 2019 election.
Singer’s donations totaled $187,740, not counting $25,015 in self-loans, and equaled $39,508 in the final Aug. 11-23 filing period.
Singer was endorsed by the city’s police and firefighter unions, the Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, the Realtors’ association, the Economic Council of Palm Beach County and the Business PAC of Palm Beach County. He also listed on his campaign website more than 500 “local residents and community leaders” who backed him, including County Commissioner Steven Abrams, state Rep. Bill Hager and U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel.
Zucaro, who publishes the BocaWatch website and lost to Haynie in March 2017, told voters that “we are at critical crossroads in our city’s history,” citing traffic, congestion and overdevelopment as top concerns.
BocaWatch contributing writers supported his candidacy on the blog. On election day, the blog ran a Zucaro “publisher’s comment” that said, “Today for the first time in decades, a ‘resident friendly’ supermajority can be elected to the city council. . . .”
Singer took aim at the website in July, complaining to the Florida Election Commission that the blog is an unregistered political action committee that violates election law because it promoted Zucaro’s candidacy. Zucaro denied operating a PAC and called the complaint a political attack.
The commission did not resolve the issue before the election.
Zucaro collected $44,133 in donations; he or his law firm also loaned or gave the campaign $15,500 more. Through Aug. 23 he spent $55,033.
Zucaro, a 10-year resident of the city who is a former West Palm Beach city commissioner, claimed victory in the face of defeat.
“I’ve accomplished what I set out to do,” he said. “I put the resident in the No. 1 position.”
Zucaro played a key role in events that led to the corruption charges against Haynie, filing complaints with the county and state ethics commissions about her financial relationship with the city’s largest downtown commercial landowner, and speaking to and providing documents to state prosecutors.