By Saraana Jamraj
Former Broward County Democratic Chair, Mitch Ceasar, qualified early to be on the ballot for Broward Supervisor of Elections.
Candidates were given the option to either mail in their checks and documents or go through a drive-thru.
Ceasar chose the latter and qualified on Tuesday, May 26.
The office he’s running for has been the center of controversy as Broward elections have resulted in multiple recounts over the years.
After the most recent recount, Supervisor Brenda Snipes was suspended by former Governor Rick Scott, and replaced with appointee Peter Antonacci, who is not running in 2020.
Ceasar, an attorney for 40 years, is familiar with the recounts because he played a role in them throughout the years, starting with the Bush vs. Gore recount of 2000.
“My number one goal is restoring confidence in the election system here,” he said. “That’s been eroded over the years for many reasons. But, if you restore confidence, more people will vote, and democracy is better served.”
Ceasar currently has four Democratic opponents: Chad Klitzman, a lawyer who graduated from Columbia Univerity, and interned in the White House during the Obama administration, Timothy T. Lonergan, president of the Broward League of Cities and former Oakland Park Mayor who now serves on the Oakland Park city commission, Bamon Joevahn “Joe” Scott, an Army Captain and West Point graduate who specializes in cybersecurity and computer science, and Ruth Carter-Lynch, former president and CEO of South Florida Planned Parenthood who held corporate leadership roles at MGM Studios, R&R Business Consulting, and Baxter Healthcare Corporation.
There’s only one Republican actively running, Catherine Seei McBreen, managing director of Spectrem Group, an investment firm, who the Democratic nominee will likely face off against in November.
Ceasar has raised the most money of all candidates with over $140,000.
He believes his opponents’ are all decent people, but that they lack the qualifying election experience that he has and believes is necessary to hold this office.
The duties of the Broward Supervisor of Elections include facilitating voter education and being responsible for conducting successful elections in compliance with the law, and ensuring that every eligible voter can exercise their right to vote.
“You not only have to have the right professional experience—which, I am the only one who does—you also have to have the right life experience, and by that, I mean by being active in the community,” said Ceasar.
The professional experience he referred to includes a 40-year law career in election and recount law, his decades as the Broward Democratic Chair, and experience in ballot design.
“I’ve been active in my community for my whole life—and not just one community, but all communities,” said Ceasar.
In the late 1990s, he served on the Judicial Nominating Committee, appointed by Florida Governor Lawton Chiles. There, he promoted women and minorities because he knew there was a severe lack of diversity.
“I was lucky. I had mentors from the Civil Rights Movement—black and white—and one of them is still around who endorsed me right away, [U.S. Congressman] Alcee Hastings,” said Ceasar.
Ceasar explained that he hadn’t planned to run; however, during the 2018 recount, he was recruited by community activists from the civil rights movement as well as recount lawyers.
“They said, ‘you know this stuff. We think you’re incredibly qualified, and you could bring it to a new level,’ and that kind of pushed me over the line,” he said.
Beyond restoring confidence and running successful elections, Ceasar believes that a greater vision is needed for the office—one that doesn’t stop at just being competent, but that empowers people to vote and includes education.
Ceasar supports the implementation of Florida’s Amendment 4, from the 2018 election, which restored the right to vote to formerly incarcerated convicted of nonviolent felonies. That law has been at the center of debate—despite more than 64 percent of the population voting in favor of it. Republican lawmakers have tried to find exceptions.
“Here, we voted on this amendment, and now the legislature is trying to interpret what our intentions were, after the fact—that’s nuts,” he said.
Another controversial topic, vote-by-mail, is something Ceasar also supports, especially amid a global pandemic that makes it riskier to vote in person.
“I’m an advocate for making it as easy as possible, while still maintaining security for folks to vote,” said Ceasar.
He said that he does not subscribe to the silly notion that there’s massive voter fraud with absentee ballots.
“There’s no date to back that up, whatsoever,” Ceasar said.
When giving a speech, a stranger came up to Ceasar said, “You’ve been preparing for this job your whole life and never knew it.”
He said that it stuck with him and rang true, and he’s kept that sentiment as he prepares for the election ahead.
The primary election takes place on Tuesday, August 18.