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Wide-open races in Martin

Martin County Democrats

Click to go to original

By Sally Swartz
Palm Beach Post Editorial Writer
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An old challenger comes back for another go at County Commissioner Lee Weberman. A former member of the Martin County Consensus usurps the group's name, adding to pre-election confusion.

The Martin County Conservation Alliance and a group of Jupiter Island supporters identify the county commission candidates they will back.

And, for the first time in many years, Martin might have a full slate of Democratic county commission candidates. Three months before the Aug. 26 primary, the Martin political scene is heating up.

Patrick Hayes, who lost to Commissioner Weberman in 2004, has entered the District 3 race as a Republican, creating an interesting challenge for the incumbent. In the last year or so, Commissioner Weberman has transformed himself, from someone who voted in lockstep with those who favor uncontrolled growth to Mr. Enviro-Beach-and-Airport Champ.

Commissioner Weberman voted for the Atlantic Ridge Preserve, which saved a huge tract of land from development. He voted against the destructive Valliere amendment, which busts the county's urban services boundary and opens western Martin to clusters of intense development. He argued to keep open a county beach when the Jupiter Island Town Commission tried to close it at night. He voted against plans to keep a controversial runway extension at Witham Field and allow more Federal Aviation Administration control at the airport.

Could Commissioner Weberman's caterpillar-to-butterfly routine be calculated? After Commissioner Susan Valliere switched her allegiance to developers, guaranteeing the commission a majority vote on growth issues, Commissioner Weberman, in the run up to an election, was free to fashion a new, kinder and greener image - which he has done.

Mr. Hayes, once a favorite of the green crowd, fell out with enviros over his support of the Valliere amendment. His friend, former Commissioner Mary Dawson, wrote the amendment. He's also rumored to have the backing of a Jupiter Island businessman with deep pockets. The winner of this convoluted, difficult - Commissioner Weberman has raised more than $90,000, and he's the incumbent - contest will face Democrat Martha Bennett in November.

Then there's the Consensus vs. Consensus Inc. flap. Al Forman, publisher of a slow-growth electronic newsletter, has taken over the name of the Martin County Consensus, a group he helped organize but parted with over airport issues. He said, in an "inside story" in the newsletter, that the name belongs to him because he conceived it and registered it. The group later incorporated as Martin County Consensus Inc.

So now, Mr. Forman is the one-man Martin County Consensus, and the other group, which supports a long list of slow-growth causes, is Martin County Consensus Inc. The Inc. folks are more than annoyed at Mr. Forman, who's sending out questionnaires to candidates as if he represented the group instead of just one guy.

Cutting through the confusion about who's who and which candidates are the "green" and "controlled-growth" choices, the Martin County Conservation Alliance announced its picks early on. The alliance backs: Henry Copeland, a member of the Jensen Beach Group, for District 1 over incumbent Doug Smith; Ms. Bennett, a Hobe Sound Democrat who favors controlled growth and environmental protection over Commissioner Weberman in District 3; and Ian Pollack, a Palm City resident who opposed the Valliere amendment and advocated shortening the Witham Field runway, for the District 5 seat being vacated by Michael DiTerlizzi. Commissioner DiTerlizzi is running for Florida House District 81.

A letter mailed to residents of one of America's wealthiest towns, Jupiter Island, also supports Mr. Copeland, Ms. Bennett and Mr. Pollack. Islanders have contributed about $40,000 to those candidates.

Two Democrats already are running for commission seats. A third is considering the District 1 race. Republican-dominated Martin, which usually picks its commissioners in the primary, could have not just a contest in November but a real contest.


(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Martin County Democratic Executive Committee has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Martin County Democratic Executive Committee endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)