By Anne Geggis
The website of the Broward County teachers union says it evaluates candidates for office and endorses those whose platforms favor educators and education. Still, incumbent Tamarac City Commissioner Julie Fishman was endorsed even before the race officially began — and two other candidates qualified.
“She’s an exemplary commissioner,” said Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teacher Union president. “We have complete confidence and wholeheartedly endorse” Fishman.
Elvin Villalobos, making a run for the District 3 commission seat after losing a 2018 mayoral quest, said it’s wrong that he did not get a chance even to fill out a questionnaire, much less be interviewed for the endorsement of the union that represents 10,000 teachers. And that’s ironic, he said, considering he’s married to a teacher and volunteers in her first-grade classroom at Central Park Elementary School.
Fishman’s endorsement also came with a $1,000 donation from the union that was dated June 18, according to city records — six days after the qualifying period ended.
“If there’s a process, follow that process,” Villalobos said. “But don’t make someone feel like, ‘Man, I didn’t even have an opportunity here.’”
It’s not the first time in this election cycle that the union has run into endorsement controversy. Since posting its endorsement of Scott Israel for Broward County sheriff on Saturday, the union rescinded the endorsement after teachers protested. They cited his department’s botched handling of the Parkland shooting in 2018 in their complaints, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Fusco said she didn’t know Villalobos was going to run and wouldn’t have bothered interviewing him anyway if she had known. She said he did not make a good impression when he ran for mayor against Michelle Gomez. Gomez bested Villalobos by 395 votes in that race.
Fusco would not elaborate the reason for her view beyond saying Villalobos was not respectful in his mayoral run. As for the third candidate in the race, Fusco said, “I didn’t even know there was a third candidate.”
She added: “We don’t go searching for candidates (in the running), we don’t have time.”
She said the teachers and their union are focused on getting schools open with all the pandemic issues happening.
That doesn’t jibe with what Jodie-Ann Wright would expect. She is also running to represent District 3 on the city commission.
“I think it’s important that they would find out who is qualified (to run) before making their final endorsement,” she said.
After getting a call from Tamarac Talk Wednesday, an email from Fusco’s account went to Villalobos and numerous members of the union executive board.
“I wanted to let everyone here know that Elvin took the coward way out,” reads the email Villalobos provided to Tamarac Talk that came to him from Fusco’s account. “I offered my cell for him to call, and instead, he gave it to Tamarac Talk to say we are mean to him.”
Her cell is also listed on the union’s website.
Villalobos fired back in a return email he shared with Tamarac Talk: “Shame on BTU for handing out $1,000 to each candidate it endorses as a body without a vetting process.”
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- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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