Broward Mayor Keechl ousted

Broward County Commission got its only Republican Tuesday night, when voters ousted Democrat Ken Keechl in favor of Chip LaMarca.

LaMarca, former head of Broward's Republican Party, will be the only one of the nine on the County Commission who is not a Democrat.

He will join the County Commission with two other new commissioners voted in Tuesday night.

A "happy'' LaMarca celebrated with his "very emotional'' wife and supporters at a restaurant in Pompano Beach Tuesday night. He said he focused on the economy and jobs, while Keechl battered him with "over the top'' attack pieces.

Keechl, a 48-year-old northeast Fort Lauderdale resident and lawyer, had won the seat four years ago from a Republican, Jim Scott. The District 4 seat covers coastal Broward.

Trying to retain his seat, Keechl amassed an enormous campaign fund, taking in about $590,000 from residents, lobbyists and people who do business with the county.

He depicted LaMarca, a 42-year-old Lighthouse Point commissioner, as a criminal, because of a college-age DUI conviction in 1989. Keechl also told voters about a 2006 Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation of LaMarca that sprang from a fight with his former employer.

In the course of that probe, Keechl told voters in an ad, LaMarca "admitted to forging names and falsely notarizing official documents'' as part of a "scheme to steal business'' from his employer, one ad warned voters.

"Lawbreakers should not be lawmakers'' that ad from the Keechl campaign said.

That investigation ended with no charges filed against LaMarca.

LaMarca, who raised about $146,000, urged voters to ignore what he called a "below the belt'' series of attacks.

"I have run a positive, solutions-based campaign,'' he said. "Ken Keechl has comandeered a slash and burn campaign on my reputation.''

The third candidate in the race was Chris Chiari, 37, a self-employed multi-millionaire who ran with no party affiliation. This was Chiari's third run for public office. He ran as an outsider critical of the county's dealings with lobbyists and special interests. Chiari mostly self-funded his campaign, using $65,000 of his own.

The other races were lopsided.

In District 6, representing Pembroke Pines, Hollywood and Hallandale Beach, Vice Mayor Sue Gunzburger could relax after fighting off a primary challenge from the well-financed, tough competitor that was former state Sen. Steve Geller. Gunzburger, a Democrat and an independently wealthy widow whose husband did business with the county, faced a minor challenge from Russell Setti, who ran without a party affiliation. Setti was a Cooper City mayor long ago. Setti did some campaigning; he bought campaign lighters to give out, and hats, his campaign reports show. Gunzburger campaigned as well, but spent only about a tenth of what she spent to win the primary.

In District 8, Democrat Barbara Sharief, a Miramar city commissioner, appeared headed to overwhelming victory over Republican Christopher Max Ziadie, a former Toys R Us store director. The district represents all or parts of Weston, Southwest Ranches, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Pembroke Park, Hallandale Beach and West Park,

District 9 reaches from Plantation west to Sunrise and Tamarac, and north and northeast, to parts of Lauderdale Lakes, North Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Oakland Park and Wilton Manors. That district will be represented by Dale V.C. Holness, a city commissioner in Lauderhill, who faced only a write-in candidate, Marie K. Leon. That didn't stop Holness from continuing to raise money from lobbyists and people who do business with the county, his campaign finance reports show.

Source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/elections/fl-election-commission-broward-20101102,0,7928791.story


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