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Issue #102: Wynmoor and the Power of the Condos in Local Elections
My favorite place in Broward
Two weeks ago, voters in a handful of Broward County cities went to the polls for local elections. One of these cities was Coconut Creek, a suburb in the north end of the county. Coconut Creek is a city of just under 60,000 people. It is dotted with suburban neighborhoods, parks, and the Wynmoor Condo Community.
If you have ever watched a single episode of Seinfeld and seen Jerry’s parents in Boca, this is very much the same vibe (and I do mean this in an endearing way). North Broward and Southern Palm Beach are home to many retiree communities. These area’s have remained heavily Democratic, still a destination for Jewish retirees from the Tri-States region. The Wynmoor Condo is a sprawling 55+ development, home to over 5,200 registered voters. Per data profiles from campaigns, the registered voters of Wynmoor around 45% Jewish, at least in terms of self-ID. The rest of Coconut Creek, meanwhile, is 11% Jewish. Not only are voters in these areas Democratic, but they are very liberal. Below is the precinct map for the Same-Sex Marriage ban from 2008. Wynmoor rejected the ban overwhelmingly.
Anyone who studies Broward political history knows the stories of the “condo commandos.” In the campaigns of decades past, the retiree communities of Southeast Florida would hold heavy sway in elections. However, as the Southeast spiked in population, with Broward holding over 1,200,000 registered voters, the power of individual communities waned. Yes Florida’s electorate till tilts older, but the power of specific condos in the southeast varies by city. Surely nothing compares to the electoral power of the Village’s Retirement community. In 2022, I wrote for City and State about the Villages; which make up 80% of Sumter County’s population.
While the Broward condos may not hold as much power as the past, they still pack a bunch in local elections.
The Wynmoor condos make up just 13% of registered voters in the city of Coconut Creek, but it it packs a punch well above its weight. Thanks to massive turnout over the rest of the city, the community can top over 30% of the vote in local races. Local contests held in the spring tend to be low turnout affairs, however, as anyone who follows politics knows, retirees love to vote. The table of the last decade of city elections shows the turnout dynamic of Wynmoor vs the rest of the City.
Turnout has ebbed and flowed depending on the contest (many have been blowouts with strong incumbents having underfunded challengers). Wynmoor has made up anywhere from 27% to 40% of the vote for city races. In all contests, turnout in Wynmoor has far outpaced the rest of the city.
In 2021, the power of Wynmoor was on full display. Joshua Rydell, the incumbent commissioner, easily won re-election. However, what really stood out was his raw vote margin in Wynmoor.
When Rydell won re-election, he was actually an appointed incumbent. While he’d been in office for several years, he resigned to run for State Attorney in Broward. After losing the contest, he was appointed back to his old seat. While there was some grumbling about the back and forth, Rydell’s win showed voters were good with him being back on the commission.
I mention this because while Rydell was not able to win the very crowded and very expensive State Attorney contest, he did win Wynmoor.
While there were EIGHT candidates in total for the Democratic primary, Rydell got 46% in Wynmoor, with Sarahnell Murphy in second at 18%. In addition, Wynmoor made up 24% of the vote for the city of Coconut Creek there. While this is down from the local election shares, its still well above share of the total population.
The 2023 Elections
This year, two city council races were on the ballot. The first seat up was Seat A, held by longtime incumbent Becky Tooley. She faced a challenge from Jeffrey Wasserman, a political newcomer who argued a fresh perspective was needed on the council. Wasserman, an assistant principle and far younger than Tooley, flat out said “People my age don’t have a seat at the table.”
In past races, Tooley easily won the Wynmoor condo community. However, this go around, Wasserman pulled of a 50 vote win. Critically for him was his 153 vote margin in Wynmoor.
Wasserman’s win in Wynmoor is a critical data point - highlighting that the community would vote for a younger candidate over a retiree if they liked his ideas and perspective. While I cannot speak for campaign strategy, I wouldn’t be shocked to find out Wasserman spent a great deal of time in the community. This race highlights that while the condo voters still have a strong say in local politics, they are more than willing to look to young voices to lead the city.
On the same ballot, Seat D was up. Here, John Brodie, an appointed incumbent, won re-election with 40% of the vote (the city doesn’t have runoffs). Brodie is an independent who actually had backing from Broward Republicans like Rep Chip Lamarca. Meanwhile, Nancy Fry is the President of the Broward Young Democrats, and earned the Sun Sentintel backing. Alfed Delgado also had Broward Democratic ties, winning the backing of the Broward Democratic Party Chair. However, the divide between the two gave Brodie the win.
To be clear, the partisan nature of the races does not appear to be a major factor. Brodie, effectively the establishment choice, did best were Tooley won. The problem for Delgado and Fry is they divided the “fresh-face outsider” vote. Delgado won Wynmoor, but the community was divided between all the candidates
This race marks the first time that Wynmoor did not vote for the winner since 2013, granted it was a 5 vote margin there. A breakdown of Wynmoor’s support in local races is seen below.
From 2015 and through the Seat A race, Wynmoor has been stronger for the winner of an election than the rest of the city. It is truly a shame that Seat D has no runoff, I’d be very interested how a Fry - Brodie contest would go. I do believe it would have ended in a Fry win.
While I am pretty well known for covering obscure voting trends, I also have a personal reason for talking about the condos. My favorite campaign memories will always come from my time working in data and field for Broward County Commission 2. In 2014, I went to work for candidate Mark Bogen, a lawyer and one of five Democrats running for the open seat. Mark’s law practice, especially around senior issues and advocacy, led to him have a powerful following in condos like Century Village and Wymoor. When I tell you we had retirees eager to make calls, tell neighbors, and get out to vote for Mark, it was true grassroots support. Our main opponent was Lisa Aronson, a Coconut Creek commissioner at the time who had previous support from Wynmoor.
The saga of this race is truly insane, as our planned August primary got upended thanks to qualifying issues. Only the five Democrats had filed, and we expected an open primary. At the last minute, a write-in filed, closing the primary. That write-in was eventually tossed from the ballot due to residency issues, which led to a court back and forth that took so long it cancelled our August election and instead got a special election scheduled for December 4th, right after Thanksgiving.
I promise to one day really write about this step by step. Long story short, after a much extended campaign, we finally got to election day, and Mark won with 53% in a five way race!
As the map shows, many areas did not back Mark. Coconut Creek was firmly in Aronson’s camp - or as you might think. In reality, thanks to Mark’s dominant performance in Wynmoor, he won the city.
I’ll share this ancedote about election day - when I knew we’d won the race. It was maybe 1pm and I was grabbing Starbucks - as I had not slept AT ALL the night before. I spent the day going to different polling sites to check on lines. All the sites I went to trickles of voter, but nothing crazy. I then got word Wynmoor alone already had hundreds of folks showing up that day. Since I firmly believed Wynmoor would be huge for Mark, I knew then we were going to win. We did.
There are many other cities/towns in Broward, Palm, Dade, and elsewhere in Florida where some condo communities pack a big punch. The Villages dominates coverage on this topic, but those Southeastern retiree communities are still there. Most voters never think about them, but they can be powerhouses in local politics.