By: Joseph Morguess
Three Tamarac mayoral candidates made presentations to the Kings Point Republican Club last Thursday, and although the election is nonpartisan, questions posed to the candidates revealed their political leanings.
Attending the event were mayoral candidates: Gerald Heller, Michelle Gomez, and Elvin Villalobos. To their credit, the Republican Club allows non-club members to attend its meetings regardless of party affiliation. And, recognizing that the November mayoral election is a nonpartisan race, the club didn’t restrict the presentations to only candidates who are registered Republicans.
During the Q&A, following the presentations, a club member inquired about the political party affiliations of each candidate. Heller described himself as having been a Republican, a conservative, a liberal, and a Democrat at various times over his long career.
Gomez’ commented that similar to the judges’ elections, the mayoral race is nonpartisan and they are not permitted to announce party affiliations. She then added, coyly, that she is not permitted to speak as a candidate at Kings Point Democratic Club meetings, implicitly suggesting to the Republican audience a non-Democratic political affiliation.
During the Q&A, Tamarac District 1 Commissioner Marlon Bolton, who was in attendance at the open meeting, commented that he is supporting Villalobos, a constituent of his district that he has come to know and admire. He expressed concern that Gomez has served too long on the commission and characterized her as an extension of current outgoing Mayor Harry Dressler, and that if elected, she would represent over 20 years of similar outdated establishment policies.
During the event, Bolton challenged Gomez to promise to return the total of her monthly car allowances of over $8,500 yearly multiplied by the years she has served, and will serve, if elected. Other than commenting that she refuses to be put on the spot by Bolton, Gomez didn’t respond directly to his remarks. Bolton has previously moved to abolish this perk at commission meetings, but his motion failed. The Tamarac mayor and commission members earn about $30,000 annually plus a monthly $750 car allowance for their part-time positions.
The most challenging question to the candidates was by a club member who made it clear she could only support a candidate who supported President Trump.
She asked each candidate,“Do you love Trump?”
Surprisingly, they all chose to respond. Heller answered first that he “liked Trump”.
The club member, Caren, followed up and asked if he’d vote for Trump. Heller hesitated, apparently feeling trapped, and she dismissed him, commenting, “I take that as a no.”
She asked the remaining candidates if they promise to vote for Trump. Gomez responded next, stating “I already voted for him, yes.”
Candidate Elvin Villalobos also responded in the affirmative. “Yes, I promise.” Surprised by this response since he has appeared regularly at Democratic club meetings over the past months, I asked him to verify this implied support for President Trump at the end of the meeting. And he did verify that support for Trump several times in response to my repeated inquiries, within that atmosphere of the Kings Point Republican Club meeting. At a Kings Point Democratic club meeting three days later Villalobos denied to me ever saying he promised to vote for Trump, and that he would never promise such a thing, but he did say that he voted for President Trump in 2016.
So, partisan-related questions were asked of candidates running in a nonpartisan race. Understandable, from a voter’s prospective? Was it proper for the candidates to respond? At the very least, there were interesting revelations at this meeting.