A significant faction of Broward Democratic Party leaders wants the party to show support for suspended Broward Sheriff Scott Israel on the grounds that he was wrongly removed from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
A resolution considered by the county Democratic Executive Committee on Tuesday night argued that DeSantis suspended Israel in January “without good cause and with no hearing.”
Based on applause and comments, most of the almost 100 people present for the discussion supported the resolution, but there wasn’t a vote because there wasn’t a quorum of committee members.
Aligning the local Democratic Party with the suspended sheriff could be politically dicey.
Israel’s name is toxic to some people in and around Parkland, who hold him responsible for failure to prevent or adequately respond to the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Removing the Democratic sheriff was a rallying cry for many Republicans — so much so that it became an issue in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, with DeSantis signaling to voters he was prepared to remove Israel. Three days after he was sworn in, DeSantis suspended the sheriff.
But Israel remains popular with many Democratic activists.
Fans and foes of Israel said he was enthusiastically greeted at a premier Democratic political event over the weekend, a fundraiser at the home of former Property Appraiser Lori Parrish.
Even George Moraitis, chairman of the Broward Republican Party, agreed that Israel still has a base of support in the county.
“I think Sheriff Israel is very formidable politically,” Moraitis said. “He has a lot of support in the community. I think he’s someone who still could get elected.”
Michael Rajner, a Democratic committeeman, said he didn’t think it was politically wise for the party to make Israel a priority.
“I don’t feel it’s wise to align with the suspended sheriff,” Rajner said. “We lost the 2018 election and need to work harder to increase voter turnout in 2020. Anything right now is a distraction that will make us less effective in 2020.”
He also said there are “many Democrats throughout Broward County who actually have concerns and actually don’t dispute the removal and suspension of Scott Israel.”
The resolution, advanced by the Broward County Presidents’ Council of Democratic Clubs and Caucuses, argued that DeSantis suspended Israel and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher and former Gov. Rick Scott suspended Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes “without good cause.” In all three cases, the governors detailed performance issues with the officials. Snipes and Bucher didn’t contest their suspensions; Israel is challenging his removal.
The resolution also said DeSantis “has stated on several occasions that he intends to remove duly elected Broward School Board members.” DeSantis hasn’t articulated such an intention, but on Jan. 30 said “there may be options where we can look at accountability there.”
Several Democrats focused on Israel during the 45-minute party discussion, but Barbara Effman, president of the West Broward Democratic Club, urged people to “take Scott Israel out of the equation. … This is about the process of democracy.”