By Jane Smith
The new Delray Beach City Commission will look like the previous one with the three incumbents returned to their seats in the March 9 municipal elections.
Mayor Shelly Petrolia and commissioners Adam Frankel and Ryan Boylston were sworn in on March 25.
Petrolia, who raised $137,992.90 as of March 4, beat challenger Tracy Caruso by just 365 votes, or 3 percentage points. The mayor lost at the polls by 588 votes but won overall when the mail-in votes were counted.
Caruso raised $212,495 for her mayoral run. That amount is believed to be an all-time high for a Delray Beach mayoral candidate.
“The close election says a lot about the current mayor. It shows that her support is narrow and thin,” Caruso wrote March 22 in response to Coastal Star questions. “And, as I’ve said previously, I hope she’ll learn and grow from the underwhelming win and change her governing and divisive style.”
Caruso’s campaign was helped by the Progress for Delray Beach political action committee, based in St. Petersburg.
Even though the new PAC was behind a robocall wrongly accusing Petrolia of being involved with a Feb. 23 boil- water advisory on the barrier island and sent more than 12 negative mailers bashing Petrolia, the PAC shows no contributions or expenses in January or February 2021.
Reached by phone on March 20, Mike Ridenour, the PAC’s chairman and treasurer, said, “No comment at this time.”
State election rules, which govern PACs, call for monthly contribution and expense reports filed on the due date of the following month.
If false or no monthly reports are filed, the rules on the state website say both the committee and its treasurer could be fined up to $500 per day, not to exceed 25% of the total receipts or expenditures for the period covered by the late report.
Any allegations that rules may have been violated should be directed to the Florida Elections Commission, Mark Ard, a Florida Department of State spokesman, wrote in an email on March 29.
The number of negative campaign mailers affected the mayor’s race, Petrolia said. “People tend to believe it after a while and don’t bother to look into the issues,” she said.
Caruso, though, denied the connection. “My campaign didn’t coordinate with any other political committee,” she wrote.
Petrolia said on March 21 that her top issues will be the recovery from the year-old coronavirus pandemic and how the lost businesses will reshape downtown; a new water treatment plant that can reduce the number of pharmaceuticals in the system and address how to clean the pipes that carry water to each residence, and selection of a new city manager.
The incumbents were also re-elected in the two commission races.
Frankel, who raised $72,440, beat challenger Price Patton by 1,109 votes, or 9.2 percentage points. Patton, who called himself a seasoned but fresh voice, raised $51,085.
A criminal defense attorney, Frankel is serving his second stint on the City Commission. Most of his contributions were from developers and political action committees.
Patton, a veteran journalist, has served on two city advisory boards. He helped to found The Coastal Star and took a leave of absence while he was campaigning. Patton ran a grass-roots campaign.
Frankel said on March 22 that his top issues are sensible growth downtown and keeping the height limit, cleaning up blighted neighborhoods such as Osceola Park, supporting the public safety officers, and getting a city site for COVID-19 vaccinations. He also wants to see how the ordinance prohibiting aggressive panhandling works because he championed it.
Boylston easily defeated challenger Mitch Katz in a rematch from 2018. Boylston raised $79,609 from a variety of donors and beat Katz by 2,491 votes, or 20.8 percentage points.
Boylston, who runs a marketing company, won at the polls on election day and from mail-in ballots.
Katz, who works for a private higher education company, raised $27,137.
Boylston listed his top priorities on March 24 as using the $13.24 million the city will receive from the American Rescue Plan for businesses and the city’s youth; financing infrastructure work such as a new water treatment plant and improving city streets; and the selection of a new city manager. He hopes that interim manager Jennifer Alvarez will apply for the position.
In other news, city commissioners picked a new vice mayor and deputy vice mayor at the March 25 swearing-in ceremony.
Shirley Johnson was named vice mayor and Frankel was named deputy vice mayor. Each will serve for one year.