Contact FreedomWorks

400 North Capitol Street, NW
Suite 765
Washington, DC 20001

  • Toll Free 1.888.564.6273
  • Local 202.783.3870


Argenio-Negron Race Gets Nastier As Runoff Approaches

BY George Bennett and Matthew Doig
by George Bennett and Matthew Doig on 9/30/00.

It will come down to a few diehard voters.

In three closely fought state House races in Martin and Palm Beach counties, the candidates who do the best job of fishing votes from a sea of indifference Tuesday will win all-but-guaranteed tickets to Tallahassee.

Republicans in state House District 82, which includes parts of Martin and northern Palm Beach counties, and Democrats in two southern Palm Beach County House districts will go to the polls for runoff elections, which are held when no candidate wins a majority in a primary.

Because turnout is usually low for runoffs, candidates have been trying to target their appeals to those hardy political souls with a history of voting in recent elections.

Expecting low turnout in District 82, both state Rep. Art Argenio and challenger Joe Negron have been campaigning door to door using a list of Republicans who voted in the primary.

Despite similar strategies and Negron's 41.2 percent-to-39.1 percent edge in the Sept. 5 primary, Negron hopes to have an edge with the endorsement of South Fork High School teacher David Traill, who got 19.7 percent in the primary.

Negron said Traill will campaign with him during the weekend in an attempt to persuade Traill voters to turn out for Negron on Tuesday.

Negron and Argenio faced off less than a year ago in a special election runoff for the District 82 seat. Negron had finished first in that primary with 47.5 percent to Argenio's 30.5 percent. But Argenio, helped by ads from Citizens for a Sound Economy attacking Negron for being a trial lawyer, came back to win the runoff with 51.6 percent.

Argenio has continued the theme this year, mailing voters a brochure that calls Negron a "pro-lawyer" candidate who "tries to get criminals off on technicalities."

On Friday, the latest - and nastiest - attack ad hit mailboxes, saying "poor Joe Negron" may suffer from "professional politicians disease" and questioning why he flip-flops from Democrat to Republican and pro-choice to anti-abortion. The ad also says the Stuart attorney wants to win so badly that "he'll say or do anything, kind of like he does when he's trying to free convicted criminals."

The flier was produced by The Alliance for Florida's Economy Inc., a for-profit corporation created by the business lobby Associated Industries of Florida to support business-friendly candidates. An Alliance for Florida's Economy official said in July the group planned to support Argenio, who scored first among his 119 House colleagues in an end-of-the-year scorecard by Associated Industries.

Negron has sent voters a mailer calling Argenio "Negative Art" and telling voters to "expect nasty, hateful mail from the Argenio campaign." A group called People for a Better Florida has aided Negron with a mailing that accuses Argenio of siding with "his lobbyist friends" on HMO reform.

The two runoffs in southern Palm Beach County are in heavily Jewish districts, and three of the four candidates are Jewish, so traditional get-out-the-vote efforts have been limited this weekend by Rosh Hashana. The observance of the Jewish new year began at sundown Friday and ends at sundown today for Reform Jews and at sundown Sunday for Conservative and Orthodox Jews.

In District 89, incumbent Rep. Curt Levine, D-Boca Raton, and challenger Irving Slosberg, both of whom are Jewish, say they won't campaign today and Sunday. Levine said some of his union supporters plan to contact voters during the weekend, but would avoid heavily Jewish areas such as the Kings Point and Century Village West retirement condos.

Slosberg edged Levine 38.6 percent to 38.2 percent in the Sept. 5 primary. The winner of the Levine-Slosberg runoff faces only a write-in challenger in the Nov. 7 general election.

In District 88, the winner of the Anne Gannon-Barry Silver runoff faces no Republican opposition in the general election. Independent Stan Smilan is on the November ballot and write-in Victoria Snyder is also a candidate.

Silver planned to co-officiate Rosh Hashana services Friday night and today with his father, Rabbi Samuel Silver, in Boynton Beach. Silver said he'd lay off campaigning today, but would attend a coffee gathering Sunday evening.

Gannon, who is Catholic, wouldn't divulge specific campaign plans. But her campaign manager, Jessie Burchfield, said, "We plan on keeping it low-key and respecting people who are observing the holiday."

Silver, a former state representative, topped a five-candidate field in the primary with 37.4 percent, while Gannon had 26.1 percent.

The Democratic campaigns also have been anything but low-key so far.

In both races, candidates and their supporters have filed ethics complaints against their rivals. Slosberg and Gannon have ridiculed their foes as ineffective in Tallahassee and have reminded voters of their rivals' traffic tickets.

Silver has called Gannon a Republican sympathizer and debate-dodger. Levine has accused Slosberg of trying to buy the election by giving burlap "schlepper bags" and sandwiches to voters.

After all the nastiness, observers expect Rosh Hashana to bring about a cease-fire in the District 88 and 89 races.

"It would be very inappropriate to do campaigning on Saturday, particularly. In my opinion, it would be inappropriate Saturday and Sunday," said Rabbi Alan Sherman, the executive vice president of the Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis.

"It's like a rain delay" said Andre Fladell, a Delray Beach activist who has helped Levine's campaign. Once the sun goes down Sunday, Fladell said, the furious campaigning will resume.

"Sunday night is fair game," Fladell said.

Three races in Tuesday's runoff

Only voters in these House districts can cast ballots.

STATE HOUSE, District 82

Art Argenio

Joe Negron

STATE HOUSE, District 88

Anne M. Gannon

Barry Silver

STATE HOUSE, District 89

Curt Levine

Irving Slosberg

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.