Stacy Ritter, the Broward County, Fla. mayor, is reportedly telling folks that she’s
wrapped up running for the Democratic nomination to replace Robert Wexler as the area’s congressman.
I met Ritter five years ago when she was a state rep, and part of a contingent of Jewish Democrats campaigning in South Florida for John Kerry’s presidential bid. Unlike others I met in the course of that campaign — GOP rising star Adam Hasner, fellow state legislator Ron Klein, who is now a congressman — she seemed tightly wound, giving terse, virtually useless replies to my questions. (
Her campaigning earned her a convention floor speech, JTA spoke to her later at the Boston convention, though, and I grabbed a good line she used in her stump speech about the Iraq War in a story I wrote about Jewish opposition to the war.)
Bad day, I figured, and besides, not everyone likes to talk to reporters, although this is an odd condition for an elected public servant.
It turns out Ritter’s got what to be wound about. Her husband reportedly is named as being involved in a burgeoning bribes scandal that could reach as high as the governor’s mansion. (To be fair, it’s not yet clear whether he is helping the government in the case — if he is involved at all.)
More bizarrely, she recently had her elderly Dad arrested — because he held a Lugar pistol to her head. His rationale, explained to the Broward-Palm Beach New Times’ Bob Norman: She wouldn’t endorse his own mayoral bid in a neighboring town, and worse, she wasn’t nice to her mother.
The 84-year-old Edward Portner was released from jail on Friday after he menaced his daughter, Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter, with a gun at her Parkland home. Portner, a former Tamarac city commissioner, was angry not only that his daughter supported his opponent, Mayor Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco, but also because he felt that she wasn’t showing her mother, 81-year-old Helen Portner, the "proper respect" either. He said the gun was never loaded and he never intended to harm her physically.
"My irritation has been building up for a long time, not for myself but for my wife," Portner told me this morning. "[Ritter] never called; she never came over to see my wife. My wife has two broken hips in 18 months; she is almost blind in one eye. I felt Stacy wasn’t showing her the proper respect. What I did wasn’t about me; it was about my wife."
Then, there’s the flight in the bathrobe:
After losing a struggle for the gun, Ritter feigned needing a glass of water before escaping through the garage door and running down the street for safety in her bathrobe and slippers.
I’m saying it here and now to the likes of AIPAC, the RAC and NCJW: Forget the Israel position papers, the pro-choice voting record, the statements on gay marriage.
I want Ritter in DC, and ASAP.
UPDATE: Mayor Ritter comments below, and I will be in touch with her. I misread the Broward New Times item linked above, thinking it was a "done deal" that Ritter had the nomination, when what the reporter is saying is a "done deal" is that she’s running. Ritter says below she is "seriously considering" running. She says that she did not speak at the 2004 convention; She did not, from the stage, but I do recall her making the remarks I linked to above from the floor, when each state delegation chooses a member to make a speech nominating the candidate. The story I linked to does not make that clear, though, and my memory might be faulty; she might have made the remarks speaking to myself or Matt Berger (who co-bylines the story) "from the floor" in an interview as a delegate to the convention. And, for the reasons stated above, I’m not surprised she does not remember me.
FURTHER UPDATE: I spoke to Mayor Ritter, who says she definitely did not nominate Kerry from the floor in 2004; her remarks must have been made to Matt or me in a floor interview.
She’s still seriously considering a run for Wexler’s seat, though, and will decide, probably, by next week. As I note in my story on Wexler, his district comprises parts of Palm Beach and Broward County; as Ritter told me, it’s about two thirds Palm Beach and one third Broward County. A candidate with ties to Palm Beach — like State Sen. Ted Deutch — has a natural profile advantage in that case, making it a "tough row to hoe" for a Broward County candidate, as Ritter put it. A mitigating factor would be if more than one candidate with Palm Beach ties were to run, she said — that would open it up for all candidates.
Ritter said she would miss Wexler; she joined the congressman and Gov. Charlie Crist on her first Israel visit in 2007. "Robert was a great guide," she said. Whomever was elected was sure to be a "staunch supporter" of Israel, she added.
Of Wexler’s new role at the Center for Middle East Peace, she said: "It sounds like a great opportunity, an adventure."