Earlier this month, voters in the City of Boca Raton cast their ballots for the first time since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. While several municipalities were holding elections, the contest in Boca Raton was the largest in Palm Beach County, with 11,906 votes cast, according to a review of municipal election data released by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections.
Up for re-election this year was Mayor Susan Haynie, who was challenged by former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Alfred Zucaro, and Councilman Scott Singer in Seat A, who was challenged by political newcomer Patti Dervishi. The contest for the open City Council Seat B resulted in a three-way-race between city activists Emily Gentile and Andrea O’Rourke, and attorney Andrew Thomson.
City Councilman Mike Mullaugh did not seek re-election to Seat B as he was term-limited. Municipal elections in Palm Beach County are non-partisan, and as such do not reflect party affiliation on the ballot.
With 64,210 registered voters, turnout was a paltry 18.54% compared to the presidential election that registered 77.2%. Of course, presidential elections have a higher turnout. However, turnout in Boca Raton was slightly lower than the last mayor race in 2014, that had a turnout of 18.57%, despite a 7% increase in registered voters.
Analysts can easily argue that having gone to the polls just five months prior the most divisive and unprecedented election in U.S. history, voters illustrated election-fatigue this month. It can also be expected that some may seek to attribute the decreased turnout to the election of Donald Trump as President. However, with only one post-Trump election, that determination is premature, and requires more data points (elections) to properly assess. At should also be noted that Trump won the City Boca Raton over Hillary Clinton by 98 votes.
Unlike the general election, there is no early voting in municipal races. Nevertheless, mail-in ballots registered nearly the same amount of the electorate with 33% of all ballots cast.
BOCA RATON MAYOR
In the race for Mayor of Boca Raton, Susan Haynie defeated Al Zucaro, 54.76% to 45.24%. Haynie carried 23 precincts, while Zucaro won 14.
Coastal precincts, the Golden Triangle, and Broken Sound registered the high-turnout precincts in the city. Precinct 4226 (Beach) had the highest turnout with 31.15%, followed by 4172 (Beach) with 30.51%, 4146 (Broken Sound) with 30.37%, 4190 (Golden Triangle) with 28.19%, and 4228 (Beach) with 26.78%. In these precincts, Haynie carried three out the five, and decisively swept Broken Sound.
While Mayor Haynie won re-election, she received less support this time around than when she first ran for Mayor in 2014, when she received 57.03%. In politics, incumbents have a record to run on, while challengers have a record to run against. This and many other factors determine elections. But it can be argued that Mayor Haynie’s popularity has decreased since her last election. That decreased support as reflected in the electorate can be attributed to her voting record and policy positions, as it can also be attributed to the strength of her challenger.
BOCA RATON SEAT A
In the race for Seat A, Councilman Scott Singer handily won re-election with 71%. Singer won all but one precinct, and four of the five the highest turnout precincts; Dervishi won Precinct 4190, Beach/Golden Triangle. In fact, Scott received 8,905 votes, more than any other candidate seeking election in Boca Raton. Scott’s easy victory can be attributed to his popular voting record and weak opposition.
BOCA RATON SEAT B
In the race for the only open seat on the Boca City Council, Andrea O’Rourke defeated Andy Thomson and Emily Gentile, with 48%. A 37-year resident of Boca Raton, O’Rourke turned out her strong base of grassroots supports, despite Thomson’s multiple endorsements, and Gentile’s support from Councilman Mullaugh and coastal residents.
O’Rourke carried 24 precincts, while Thomson won 12, and Gentile zero. O’Rourke and Thomson tied in Precinct 4150, which registered the second lowest turnout precinct in the election. O’Rourke won four out of the five highest turnout precincts, while Thomson barely carried 4228 (Beach) the fifth highest turnout precinct. Thomson made a strong showing in Broken Sound, and only lost Precinct 4146 (Broken Sound) to O’Rourke by one vote.
In total, the 2017 Boca Raton municipal elections saw seven candidates face off for mayor and two city council seats. Municipal elections have a higher turnout when the mayor’s seat is up, yet had a lower turnout this year than in 2014. Mayor Haynie won comfortably albeit with less support than her previous election. Singer had little opposition and received more votes than any other municipal candidate in Palm Beach County. While many voters clearly feel like their voices haven’t been heard, and have turned to O’Rourke to be their next representative.