Lauderdale Lakes Mayor meets political newcomer in Broward Commission race

Mayor Hazelle Rogers' contest with Guithele Ruiz-Nicolas dogged by questions about campaign vendor with the same address as her campaign.

A veteran state lawmaker and Lauderdale Lakes Mayor is going up against a newcomer to the political game to represent the Broward County Commission’s District 9.

Mayor Hazelle Rogers, a native of Jamaica who represented House District 95 for an eight-year stint until 2016, is up against Guithele Ruiz-Nicolas, a native of Haiti. Ruiz-Nicholas currently works as a case manager at Broward College. She’s also worked in county government and been a city staffer in Opa-locka and North Miami.

The two are competing to fill the open seat now held by gubernatorial appointee, Torey Alston. Alston was tapped to temporarily fill the position left open when Dale Holness resigned to run for Congress.

Rogers has decisively outraised and outspent the newcomer to politics — raising about $100,000 more than Ruiz-Nicholas and spending $114,689 to her competitor’s $27,506.

Rogers drew support from Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller, Cory Shearer, the former president of the Broward County Democratic Black Caucus, and the Service Employees International Union. But the Sun-Sentinel endorsed her competitor saying Rogers, “has not earned the public trust.” Broward Young Democrats and the Dolphin Democrats, an LGBTQ political club, also endorsed Ruiz-Nicolas. 

Red Broward reported Rogers has been sending campaign money to a newly formed company registered in Delaware, Purple Bird Communications. It has the same address as her campaign — a Fort Lauderdale post office box.

Delaware law allows companies to register without disclosing officers or directors.

And campaign records show that the biggest campaign expense she made in June was to Purple Bird Communications: $22,150 for “canvassing and designing.” But then, an amended report, which came after Red Broward’s first report, shows the expense was refunded. The same thing happened for an earlier report: A $3,000 payment was made for “design marketing materials” and then the amended report shows the expense refunded.

Rogers was grilled at a Sun-Sentinel endorsement interview about it, and the board found Rogers’ denial of any knowledge of the company a “woefully inadequate response.”

Also, some of her moves have cost her allies.

Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Beverly Williams withdrew her support for Rogers because she announced she would be resigning her mayoral seat on Nov. 21, not before Election Day.

Williams flayed her on Facebook for that choice, which will make it so that the remaining Commission members choose her replacement, instead of the voters on Election Day.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think someone of African descent would show such disregard for our voting rights,” it says on Williams’ Facebook page. “But that is just what Mayor Rogers has done. … I have decided that I cannot in good conscience support her or anyone who would suppress my vote.”

Rogers told Florida Politics that she wants to put her expertise working with different levels of government to use. Ruiz-Nicolas’ website names “transportation and infrastructure” and “workforce and affordable housing” as her top issues. 

The district the two are seeking to represent covers all of Lauderdale Lakes and parts of Fort Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Oakland Park, Plantation, Sunrise and unincorporated areas.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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