In Broward’s hottest election on the Aug. 23 ballot, a conservative group best known for opposing abortion rights named Lauren Book as its “preferred” candidate in its contest with Barbara Sharief.
Book’s campaign doesn’t see the note as helpful.
The Book-Sharief race is one of several contests in which the conservative group Florida Family Action makes suggestions to voters in the heavily Democratic county. The county’s registered voters are 48% Democrat, 29% Unaffiliated/Independent, 21% Republican, and 2% minor party.
Another conservative organization, Moms for Liberty, along with the Broward Republican Party, endorses – or gives a stamp of approval – to several others candidates in the August ballot.
The question is, does support from right-wing political groups or the Republican Party help or hurt in Broward County, which is predominantly Democratic?
Book’s spokeswoman rejected “preferred status.”
“Lauren Book has been endorsed by Democrats across the state, by unions and dozens of Democratic organizations. We were unaware and did not seek the recommendation of the Florida Family Council,” spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren said Friday via text message.
Florida Family Action is outspoken in its opposition to abortion rights and LGBTQ rights. The book is the opposite of these issues and has been endorsed by the Equality Florida LGBTQ organization and abortion rights groups Ruth’s List Florida and Planned Parenthood.
Book, currently a state senator, and Sharief, a former Broward County commissioner, are both Democrats running on Aug. 23. The election in Southwest Broward’s 35th District is open to all voters, and the winner will win the Senate seat, as no Republicans showed up to run.
In the Democratic primary for the 20th congressional district, Florida Family Action ranked state Rep. Anika Omphroy as “favorite.” Tallahassee Democrats viewed Omphroy with suspicion, after she began setting a record that included voting with Republicans on controversial measures, such as a 2020 bill requiring parental consent for underage girls to have abortions .
She is competing for nomination in the Broward-Palm Beach County District against U.S. Representative Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.
Joanne Goodwin, former president of the North Broward Democratic Club, used Moms for Liberty endorsements made in Broward School Board races as a litmus test of who not to vote, emailing the recommendations to political friends and posting them on Facebook.
“Voters beware,” Goodwin said, adding that she recommends voters “do their research and not vote for these candidates.”
The Broward Republican Party has endorsed three school boards and six judicial nominees. “I think so [the party endorsement] helps, especially in an August primary, because voter turnout is historically around 25%,” said Richard DeNapoli, elected Broward Republican committee member and former county party chairman.
“The lower the poll, the less awareness there is,” he said. “In non-partisan races, I think it’s very useful.”
The school board and court races are officially nonpartisan, although activists from both parties have long been involved in Broward’s contests. The August 23 elections in these races are open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation.
In her email, along with a screenshot of Moms for Liberty recommended candidates, Goodwin wrote, “Moms for Liberty has county-specific chapters across the country that target local school board meetings, school board members school boards, administrators and teachers. The group advocates stripping districts of protective measures against COVID-19 and changing the school curriculum to exclude the teaching of “critical race theory” (CRT) and sex education, all in the name of “parental rights”.
In the screenshot, the group said: “Accountability, transparency, financial responsibility, safety, student first, parental rights, teacher support, community involvement. These are the hallmarks of a thriving school district and what is sorely lacking in the current Broward County School Board. It’s so important to vote for change in this upcoming election on August 23rd. We believe these five candidates can deliver the change Broward County needs and deserves. As always, do your own research and due diligence, and get out there and vote! »
School board candidate Nathalie Lynch-Walsh, who is backed by Moms for Liberty and received a $250 campaign contribution from the organization, said on Friday she was unsure whether the endorsement would be helpful, given Broward’s political leanings.
“That may or may not be the case. I think for someone else it might be problematic. I’m not going to be bullied,” she said.
“I think they [Moms for Liberty] were trying to show support and didn’t realize how closed-minded Broward County could be,” Lynch-Walsh said. “If I was a weaker person, I would demand that my name be removed and that I return my check.”
Lynch-Walsh has vigorously opposed what she sees as Goodwin’s message that she agrees with all views of Moms for Liberty and said she is not a member.
“Where we find common ground is transparency, accountability, teacher support, community involvement, parental rights. We don’t all agree on what that means,” Lynch-Walsh said.
A representative for Moms for Liberty could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
In April, when Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a measure imposing restrictions on how race-related issues are taught in public schools and private workplaces in Florida – banning classes that could hurt some people at ease – he asked the president of the Broward chapter of Moms for Liberty as a speaker. Last month, Moms for Freedom statewide endorsed DeSantis’ re-election.
The governor has endorsed candidates in school board competitions across the state, but not in Broward.
Florida Family Action ranks applicants in three categories: “endorsement,” which means “approved and recommended,” based on factors such as a conservative record and research, and “indicates a very high likelihood of trust that this applicant will govern and vote as a Conservative.”
An “ally” rating indicates that two or more applicants meet all or most of the criteria for approval.
And a “preferred” rating goes to those who are considered “more conservative or more knowledgeable than the other candidates in the running…. May have a mixed voting record,” but are “still a better option than the other candidates.”
Congress – Florida Family Action: Republicans Joe Budd, District 23; Lavern Spicer, District 24; and Carla Spalding, District 23 are “preferred.”
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State House – Florida Family Action: Incumbent Democrats Patricia Hawkins-Williams, District 98; Daryl Campbell, District 99; and Marie Woodson, District 105 are “preferred”.
School Board – Broward Republican Party: Brenda Fam, District 6; Merceydes Lydia Morassi, District 7; Mourice Hirra Hylton, District 8.
School Board — Moms for Liberty: Nathalie Ingrid Lynch-Walsh, District 5; John Christopher Carter and Brenda Fam, District 6; Merceydes Lydia Morassi, District 7; and Mourice Hirra Hylton, District 8.
Circuit Court Judge – Republican Broward: Lauren Melissa Alperstein, Panel 9; William W. “Bill” Haury Jr, Group 14; Rhoda Sokoloff, Group 23; Lorena Mastrarrigo, Group 51.
County Court Judge – Republican Broward: Chris M. Brown, Panel 15; Tuesday Anne Levey Cohen, Group 26.
County Court Judge – Florida Family Action: Chris M. Brown, Group 15. Florida Family Action has listed several other judicial nominees in Broward as “acceptable.”