There have been rumours and innuendos, hints and allegations, but it seems like the time has come to get this subject out into the light. For the past year our crew here at the Daily Broward have been asked and told that the former Broward County Sheriff, Al Lamberti is going to make another run for the top law enforcement job in the County.
It was simple to initially dismiss the suggestions of a recycling of that campaign. Lamberti seemed to be moving on to other things, a senior consultant position with a security company based out of North Carolina, while taking a few parting shots on the way out with a pay hike to his self and a destroyed hard drive raising both questions and eyebrows. A return to the campaign trail seemed unlikely.
However, in recent weeks, several sources have indicated that not only is Lamberti seriously considering a run for the office, but in an added twist, might make that run as a democrat.
When considering the voter demographics of the county, a shift in party may seem appealing to Lamberti, who instead of having to convince Democrat voters to vote Republican, would have the task of dividing the Democrat vote – an obstacle that might possibly seem less challenging.
There are also suppositions that in the event of no Republican candidate, Republicans would be able to vote for him in the primary and that combined with Democrat votes, Lamberti would be able to gain the majority. That theory has been proposed by more than one pundit.
Three significant problems have been mentioned with regard to a Lamberti reboot as a Democrat: Broward County, Scott Israel, and Al Lamberti himself. Each presents it’s own unique dynamic.
Broward County is the first problem for Lamberti. The electorate is profoundly Democrat. Moreover, the Democrat voters follow the instruction of the local party leadership when it comes to casting votes. It is this same electorate that put Scott Israel into the Sheriff’s Office, which leads to the second problem for Lamberti: Scott Israel
While Israel has experienced a few minor bumps – budget votes and a questionable campaign boatride- his administration thus far has been remarkably free from earthquakes. When compared to Lamberti’s own run ins with the Broward County commission regarding budgets or his still unresolved connections to the infamous Ponzi Schemer Scott Rothstein, Israel’s time and office seems positively peaceful. Added to which, Israel is by all accounts going about the duties of the Sheriff’s Office in a workmanlike manner. In every metric, crime is down in Broward. Residents of the county feel safer. In short, he’s getting the job done, and well.
The third problem facing Lamberti should he go for the re-run is Lamberti himself – or more precisely, the past unanswered questions which have yet to settle down, and will likely be stirred up again. Right up at the top of the pile is the Scott Rothstein connection. Those connected to Rothstein keep ending up facing penalties and/or jail time- a fact which cannot possibly escape Lamberti’s notice. There is also the inactive-but-not-closed matter of Lamberti’s office hard drive. Here in Florida, it’s a violation of transparency law to destroy public records. Additionally, state law requires the records to be delivered to “successor(s) at the expiration of his or her term of office”. Lamberti’s sheriff records are considered public records under Florida law.
In the past, the suggestion has been made to make the office of the Broward County Sheriff a non-partisan race. Lamberti himself has suggested that course at times, but this is Broward County, where even non-partisan races such as the judicial competitions become an exercise in partisan one-upsmanship. It seems highly unlikely that taking the party designator off the ballot would remove party influence.
If Lamberti decides to make another run for the Sheriff’s office, it seems as though he will already difficult fight. If he decides to make the run AND shift parties, then that fight would seemingly become untenable. It is difficult to imagine how Lamberti’s financial backers on the GOP side would react to such a party shift. Charlie Crist could probably give Lamberti some pointers on a party switch/career reboot, it would not be hard for Lamberti to review where that choice led Charlie. At the end of the day, this is Broward county, where voters have a long memory (or at least a significant machine in place for reminders). The polls below will give you the chance to weigh in on this as well, but it seems like this might be a race where the gate never opens, certainly not when a candidate changes party horses midstream. At least, that’s the way that I see it.