Why is there an election race that technically doesn’t even count?

By | March 8, 2024

Voting begins Saturday for municipal elections in Palm Beach County, including in Riviera Beach, where one — and perhaps two — contested elections will be held.

Why the uncertainty?

Because in the District 4 race between incumbent Julia Botel and challenger Glen Spiritis, an appeals court has ruled that Botel did not follow state law in qualifying as a candidate and therefore cannot serve a third term even if she receives more votes than her opponent .

That ruling, which Botel has vowed to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, came after the ballots were printed.

Voters will therefore see Botel’s name on the ballot, but votes cast for her will not count unless she succeeds in overturning the court’s ruling.

MORE RIVIERA: The councilwoman’s appeal to participate in the elections was rejected; is the Supreme Court the next step?

MORE RIVIERA: Resident sues city district, claiming contaminated drinking water made him sick

MORE RIVIERA: Ugly details of hallway fight between councilors revealed; no charges filed

The 76-year-old Botel announced last year that she would not stand for re-election. She endorsed her legislative aide, but when the aide was arrested, Botel changed her mind and jumped into the race, literally with just hours to fill out her paperwork, according to court documents.

The two-week filing period ended at noon on November 21st. Botel’s paperwork was postmarked minutes after noon and she paid the campaign filing fee with a check, court documents show.

Riviera Beach initially stated that the former teacher had properly qualified as a candidate, but the city backtracked, noting that the paperwork had to be filed by noon and that the filing fee had to be taken from money in a campaign account.

Botel sued and a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge ruled in her favor. Spiritis, a 71-year-old former city manager of Long Beach, New York, appealed that ruling, which was reversed by the Fourth District Circuit of Appeal.

Botel asked the appeals court for a rehearing, but it refused, leaving Spiritis as the only qualified candidate in District 4.

Before the electoral battle consumed their race, Botel and Spiritis wrestled over safe drinking water, development and management, which were also key issues in the District 2 race between incumbent KaShamba Miller-Anderson and her opponent, newcomer Leroy Kelson IV.

When the city sent out a notice in January telling readers that the utility had failed to report a positive test for E. coli in a well in June, water safety exploded as the top issue.

Residents have attended city meetings demanding answers about the late notice and expressing concerns about the safety of the water they receive from the city’s water treatment plant, which was built in 1958.

The city plans to build a new water treatment plant, but it will cost an estimated $200 million and is not expected to be operational until early 2027.

Meanwhile, the city is trying to move forward with a host of development projects. In addition to voting in the city council races, voters will be asked to consider a trio of referendum questions that will help the city raise $115 million for new parks, a new fire station and a new police headquarters.

If you approve all three criteria, property taxes would increase by $292 for every $250,000 of taxable assessed value.

Botel and Miller-Anderson have pushed for the new development projects. Kelson and Spiritis have also been supportive, although both wonder why more hasn’t been done at this point. Both also questioned the workload of City Manager Jonathan Evans, who oversees day-to-day city functions but is also director of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

Botel and Miller-Anderson have been staunch supporters of Evans, although Miller-Anderson said she would be open to more management help for him.

The Riviera Beach District 2 races pit incumbent KaShamba Miller-Anderson (left) against Leroy Kelson IV.

The Riviera Beach District 2 races pit incumbent KaShamba Miller-Anderson (left) against Leroy Kelson IV.

Here’s a more detailed look at the candidates in the District 2 race:

District 2: Leroy Kelson IV, 31, is making his first run for public office

Leroy Kelson IVLeroy Kelson IV

Leroy Kelson IV

Background: Kelson IV has a bachelor’s degree in public management and two master’s degrees, one in sports management and one in educational leadership and administration. He works as a single-school cultural coordinator for Palm Beach County Schools.

Public service: Kelson IV has not previously run for public office.

Priorities: Economic growth, public safety, environmental protection, urban unification.

What he says: “I am not a politician. I am an educator. I was born and raised here in Riviera Beach because the issues facing our students and their families are critical and will not be solved by continuing to do the same thing and move on.”

Campaign financing: Kelson IV has raised $8,603 through January 31.

Website: www.LeroyKelsonIV.com

District 2: KaShamba Miller-Anderson, 50, is the incumbent seeking her fourth term

Riviera Beach Councilmember KaShamba Miller-AndersonRiviera Beach Councilmember KaShamba Miller-Anderson

Riviera Beach Councilmember KaShamba Miller-Anderson

Background: Miller-Anderson has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration. In addition to her work on the City Council, Miller-Anderson is an assistant principal in the Palm Beach County School District and a real estate agent.

Public service: Miller-Anderson serves on the Riviera Beach City Council.

Priorities: Safe, clean drinking water, transparency in local government, financing infrastructure improvements, affordable housing, beach conservation, employment.

What she says: “It is very important that experience remains on stage, because we have got many projects going. It took a very long time for those projects to happen. The first few years that did not happen, which is why I joined the board stay is certainly something I ask your vote for.”

Campaign financing: Miller-Anderson has raised $9,675.15 through Jan. 31.

Facebook: Re-elect Riviera Beach Councilmember KaShamba Miller-Anderson, District 2

Wayne Washington is a journalist covering West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach and race relations at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at wwashington@pbpost.com. Help support our work; subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Riviera Beach election: Water security and development are key issues

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