By Jane Smith

Newcomer Juli Casale edged incumbent Bill Bathurst in the Delray Beach City Commission elections for Seat 2.

7960936078?profile=originalCasale, who ran a grass-roots campaign that raised $34,963, won by 106 votes on March 17.

In comparison, Bathurst raised $95,140 in mostly $1,000 donations from developers, hoteliers, attorneys and restaurant owners doing business with Delray Beach.

In early March, Bathurst received two large donations from the Republican Party of Palm Beach County. The party donated $4,500 on March 2 and $1,500 on March 11.

Bathurst, a residential Realtor, could not be reached for comment, despite multiple voicemail messages left for him.

On March 26, he sent out an email blast: “I would like to congratulate Juli on her election and wish her the best of luck in serving on the Commission. I would also like to thank Jennifer Jones and Debra Tendrich for stepping up to run for public office. I hope you both continue to be involved in serving our community.”

“I feel great. I’m thrilled,” said Casale, a community activist. She says she worked hard to win by knocking on more than 5,000 doors.

“My Sable Lakes neighbors watched me work hard for two years,” she said.

Concerned about overall density in her section of Delray Beach, Casale led an effort to block a developer’s plan to build a 102-unit complex near her single-family community. The builder later agreed to construct 40 single-family homes. 

Delray Beach does not hold runoff elections.

That allowed Casale to win with 36.03% or 4,006 votes, Bathurst received 35.07% or 3,900 votes, businesswoman Jones tallied 20.11% or 2,236 votes and nonprofit owner Tendrich received 8.79% or 978 votes. In that race, 11,120 votes were cast.

Commissioner Shirley Johnson easily retained her Seat 4 with a margin of nearly 7.7 percentage points or 834 votes over challenger Chris Davey.

“So many factors helped me win,” said Johnson, a retired businesswoman. “They believed in the service I gave for the past three years.”

She also credited her outreach to the Haitian community in Delray Beach. “They really want to be part of the city,” Johnson said.

Johnson raised $63,199. Davey raised $25,775, mostly from self-loans, and public schoolteacher Angela Burns raised $9,635.

“Shirley ran a good campaign,” said Davey, a residential real estate consultant. “The anti-incumbent vote was split between two candidates.”

Johnson received 39.29% or 4,260 votes, Davey tallied 31.6% or 3,428 votes and Burns received 29.1% or 3,157 votes.

Also on the ballot was a city charter change that would allow the commission to receive salary increases without having to wait six months before an election. It failed by a nearly 2-1 margin, with 7,127 voting no and 3,729 supporting the measure.

Before election day, several polling locations were changed to protect people living in nursing or assisted-living facilities from the voters entering and possibly carrying the coronavirus. Older adults and people with existing medical conditions are the most vulnerable to the virus.

On election day, poll workers did not arrive in at least six Delray polling places. Most were older adults who likely feared contracting the coronavirus.

Voters were turned away, told they could vote a provisional ballot at another precinct or waited more than two hours to cast a mail-in ballot at the supervisor’s South County office in Delray Beach.

On March 31 at the commission’s annual reorganization meeting, Ryan Boylston was chosen as vice mayor and Johnson as deputy vice mayor.

Commissioners canceled their April 7 meeting. 

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