Delray Beach mayoral race features bitter battle between Shelly Petrolia and Tracy Caruso
Image via AP.

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Caruso and Petrolia are both raising big bucks ahead of the March 9 contest.

Incumbent Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia is pushing for a second three-year term as the city’s Mayor. But businesswoman and first-time candidate Tracy Caruso is seeking to unseat her in an election Tuesday.

In her race for Delray Beach Mayor, Caruso has accused Petrolia of being “divisive and vindictive” and has harshly criticized her tenure. Indeed, both the Palm Beach Post and South Florida Sun-Sentinel recognized Petrolia’s combativeness in op-eds laying out their respective endorsement decisions in the contest.

Both publications said Petrolia deserves a second term, however. Both cited Caruso’s lack of political experience combined with her previous support for President Donald Trump.

Caruso’s support of the former President and past appearances on the “Trumpettes USA” website isn’t an issue in and of itself. Instead, those publications were critical of Caruso’s effort to downplay her Trump support in an effort to with the mayoral contest in Democratic-leaning Delray Beach. For instance, on the day she filed to run for Mayor, Caruso swapped her registration from “Republican” to “No Party Affiliation.”

Caruso does have experience chairing the Delray Beach Historic Preservation Board and serving as vice president of the Atlantic Grove Condo Association. And she has been able to raise plenty of money, even more than the incumbent.

Caruso’s husband, Mike, is a Republican serving in the House. He represents House District 89, spanning Delray Beach and Boca Raton and running up Palm Beach County’s eastern coastline.

Caruso has tapped into her husband’s donor network to reach those fundraising marks, earning criticism from Petrolia that Caruso is relying on out-of-city interest groups to raise cash.

Those criticisms of Petrolia’s leadership may register with voters, however. Though supporting Petrolia, the Palm Beach Post called out her “belligerence,” and the Sun-Sentinel acknowledge the incumbent Mayor “can be pushy, arrogant and uncommunicative.”

Some of Petrolia’s policies have also been polarizing, such as pushing for a 150% pay raise for elected officials while the city otherwise had a hiring freeze. But Petrolia has earned praise for pushing back against no-bid contracts with the city and endorsing police and fire pension reforms.

The Tuesday election will also feature two City Commission seats up for grabs. Commissioner Adam Frankel is defending his seat against journalist Price Patton in the Seat 1 race. And for Seat 3, Commissioner Ryan Boylston is battling former Commissioner Mitch Katz in a rematch of the 2018 contest.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


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