The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Seven candidates to pursue two commission seats in March election

By Jane Smith

Seven candidates are vying for two City Commission seats in Delray Beach.
The incumbents for each seat met the city’s qualifying deadline of noon Dec. 19, along with their challengers.
Bill Bathurst, who last time ran unopposed to fill the remaining two years of Jim Chard’s seat, now has three challengers. They are Juli Casale, a community activist; Jennifer Jones, a self-employed businesswoman; and Debra Tendrich, a nonprofit founder.
Shirley Johnson, the other incumbent, has two challengers for her commission seat: Angela Burns, an educator, and Chris Davey, a commercial real estate broker.
Bathurst, a residential Realtor and previous member of the city’s Historic Preservation Board, has raised the most money of the seven candidates by collecting $65,685, as of Nov. 30.
His donors include developers with projects proposed or under construction in Delray Beach.
Hudson Holdings, which sold its share in the Midtown Delray project in early 2019, donated $3,000 through three entities. In January 2019, the developer submitted a plan to build an eight-story apartment building called Hudson Flats. The project sits west of Interstate 95, south of Atlantic Avenue and between Congress Avenue and the CSX railroad tracks.
BH3, which won the bid to redevelop three blocks of West Atlantic from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, contributed $3,000 through four related businesses, including its law firm. Bathurst sits on the agency’s board through his City Commission role.
Another Delray Beach developer, Menin, donated $2,350 through six related entities. Menin has two projects underway near downtown: The Ray hotel on Northeast Second Avenue and Delray Beach Market, a four-story food hall on Southeast Third Avenue.
A few weeks after the City Commission gave valet operators a six-month reprieve to remove their stands from East Atlantic Avenue, eight restaurants donated $1,000 each to the Bathurst re-election campaign.
He also received three $1,000 donations from the Walsh family, whose hotel holdings include the recently rebranded Delray Beach Marriott, now called Opal Grand Oceanfront Resort & Spa.
In contrast, Casale is running more of a grass-roots campaign. As of Nov. 30, she raised $11,660, including a $5,000 self-donation. She also serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Board.
Her donor list includes associates from the Delray Beach Preservation Trust. Co-presidents Carolyn Patton donated $500 while Joy Howell gave $200.
Linda Oxford, a longtime resident and trust board member, gave $100. Gayle Clarke, also a trust board member and a residential real estate agent, donated $250. Allen “Sandy” Zeller, trust treasurer and Johnson’s campaign treasurer, gave $300.
Price Patton, Carolyn Patton’s husband and a member of the city’s Site Plan Review and Appearance Board, donated $500 to Casale.
The two remaining challengers have raised less than $10,000 each.
Tendrich, founder of the Eat Better Live Better nonprofit, raised $8,976, including a $100 self-loan.
Her donors include former CRA board Chairman Reggie Cox, who gave $100.
Cox has promised to campaign against Bathurst for going along with Johnson to have the commission take over the CRA board.
Jones raised $200 in two $100 self-donations.
In the other race, Johnson has raised $31,809, including two self-donations of $100 each and a $400 self-loan.
As with Bathurst, most of Johnson’s campaign donations are connected to developers, hoteliers and restaurant owners.
She received three $1,000 donations from Hudson Holdings-related firms. Johnson also received $1,000 from Pebb Capital, the new owner of the Midtown Delray project on Swinton Avenue, renamed Sundy Village.
Johnson collected four $250 donations from the Walsh family, which owns and manages more than 125 hotels on the eastern seaboard.
Two months after the approval of Joe Carosella’s plans for Delray Place South over the objections of Tropic Isle residents, the developer donated two $1,000 amounts from different entities in November.
His land use attorney, Bonnie Miskel, also donated $1,000 to Johnson’s campaign.
In addition, her law firm held a November fundraiser for Johnson at the Harvest Restaurant in Delray Place, a Carosella holding. The cost was $726.52.
Johnson joined Bathurst in giving the six-month reprieve to the valet stands’ having to move off Atlantic Avenue.
A few weeks later in October, eight restaurant owners donated $1,000 each.
Challenger Burns has raised $3,575, as of Nov. 30. The amount includes two self-donations, one for $50 and the other for $200.
Burns’ donors include Reggie Cox, who donated $500, and Charles Ridley, president of the West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition, who donated $250.
They both have criticized Johnson, whose actions led to the City Commission’s taking over the CRA.
Johnson’s latest challenger, Davey, entered the race on Dec. 13. His civic experience includes former vice chair of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, current chairman of the city’s Board of Adjustment and current member of the city’s Comprehensive Plan Update Committee.
He also is a member of the nonprofit Delray Beach Preservation Trust.
Davey lost a 2014 City Commission bid to Al Jacquet. Davey was ahead at the polls by 429 votes, but he lost by 265 votes when absentee ballots (now called mail-in ballots) were counted.
Because of his late entry, Davey has not reported any campaign contributions.
The seats are not restricted. All Delray Beach voters can pick a candidate for each seat on March 17. City voters also will decide on a charter amendment that changes the date for commissioners’ and mayor’s salary increases:
“Commissioner/mayor salaries currently, any ordinance proposing to increase the annual salaries of the mayor and commissioners is not effective unless adopted at least six (6) months prior to the next regular city election. The charter amendment eliminates the six (6) month requirement and proposes that mayor and commissioner salary increases become effective at the next organizational meeting held on or after the last Thursday in March.”

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