Palm Beach County Best of the Best Political Awards

Line up 100 political mavens and politicians against the wall and ask them who possess the best political minds and skills in Palm Beach County, or who is best at practicing the not-so-gentle art of politics, and you will get a wide array of answers.

But will such a group, possessed of valuable inside knowledge, arrive at a pattern of similar answers if they are surveyed about who is the best of the best? What would be the consensus wisdom of a savvy group of political players?

I decided to find out.

Preparing a survey of five questions, I identified 100 individuals — mostly political consultants, politically savvy business leaders, political operatives and a few politicians with countywide knowledge — and sent them each a confidential email asking who’s best. If they voted for themselves (only one did), I invalidated the response. Also, any votes for me were invalidated, as were any votes for national political figures. Some respondents answered all questions; others did not. Several respondents did not return the survey, for a variety of reasons, I suspect. In choosing survey participants, I based my assessment on the depth of their political knowledge, and not their political party affiliation.

I asked this group for confidential nominations for the following “Best of the Best” political prizes:

  1. Top Three Political Minds in Palm Beach County
  2. Most Honest Politician
  3. Hardest Campaigner
  4. Best Political Fundraiser
  5. Truest Statesman (or woman)

And the winners are:

Hardest Campaigner:  There were a total of 11 nominees. Former state Rep. Adam Hasner had the most votes, followed by Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff.

Most Honest Politician: There were a lot of nominees for this category (17). Florida Rep. Pat Rooney was the winner, followed closely by Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. It’s interesting to note that, after Rooney, the option of “None” received the second highest number of votes.

Best Political Fundraiser: Former Congressman Allen West won hands down, among 12 nominees. But respectable showings were also made by Hasner and Aronberg. West received nominations in three of the five categories.

Truest Statesman: This category would be coveted by any elected official. The prize goes to Congressman Tom Rooney, followed by Florida CFO Jeff Atwater. It was nice to see that the late Phil Lewis, former Florida Senate president, received a vote in both this category and for Most Honest Politician, and former Congressman Harry Johnston also was a nominee. “None” received seven votes. Pat and Tom Rooney both received nominations for Truest Statesman and Most Honest Politician.

Top Three Political Minds in the County: This group generated the most buzz and the most comment. Combinations of politicians, political operatives and consultants were nominated. There were 28 nominees. The top three vote-getters were BIZPAC Review co-founder Jack Furnari, political strategist Andre Fladell and U.S. Sugar Senior Vice President Robert Coker. Close behind were Randy Nielsen of Public Concepts, and former County Commissioners Burt Aaronson and Karen Marcus. Other vote-getters in this category, in alphabetical order, were: County Commissioner Steve Abrams, political consultant Rick Asnani, Atwater, attorney and lobbyist Bill Boose, political consultant Cathy Brandenburg, Bethesda Healthcare System’s Bob Broadway, Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens, Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman Sid Dinerstein, Congresswoman Lois Frankel, business executive Mark Guzzetta, political strategist Eric Johnson, Rich Johnston of Public Concepts,  Investment Corp. of Palm Beach Director of Governmental Affairs Joe Love, Economic Council CEO Danny Martell, former County Commissioner Mary McCarty, attorney and lobbyist Marty Perry, Callery-Judge Groves General Manager Nat Roberts, Pat Rooney, Tom Rooney, political consultant Meryl Stumberger and Lynn University professor Robert Watson.

Reviewing the entire list of 28 nominees for Top Three Political Minds, what strikes me is that non-politicians received more votes than politicians. The vast majority – 81 percent – of the votes in this category went to political consultants and strategists/operatives, and only 19 percent went to politicians. The profound lesson here is that elected officials need to listen to the people who brought them to the dance, and not to themselves.

John R. Smith

John R. Smith is chairman of BIZPAC, the Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County, and owner of a financial services company.

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