Charles Burkett unseats Shlomo Danzinger to take back Surfside Mayor’s Office
Charles Burkett's opinion of his successor as Mayor seems to have soured over the past two years. Image via AP.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett
It was a rematch 2 years in the making.

Surfside rewound time, in a way, re-electing former Mayor Charles Burkett and casting out Shlomo Danzinger, the man who replaced him two years ago in the aftermath of the city’s deadly condo collapse.

With Surfside’s sole precinct reporting, Burkett took 52.5% of the vote to defeat Danzinger by a 102-vote margin.

He’ll return to the job he lost to Danzinger two years ago by just 35 votes.

Burkett, a real estate investment and management executive who served as Mayor from 2006-2010 and 2020-2022, agreed with Danzinger that the town needs to improve its policing.

He also vowed to lower taxes, make the town government more transparent, complete the city’s parks, expand flooding and undergrounding projects and reverse zoning changes implemented under Danzinger that he said provided “giveaways” to developers.

He raised about $20,000, half of which came from his bank account. The remainder came from residents, local businesses and residents. Former Vice Mayor Tina Paul, who ran to win back her Town Commission seat, gave him $200.

Burkett also spent about $7,700 on flyers, mail, a website, signs and donation processing fees.

Danzinger, a business owner, ran on a platform prioritizing community safety and policing, enhancing residents’ quality of life, and allowing safe but responsible development. He also vowed to protect homeowners’ rights, promote fiscally responsible governance, and uphold the “civility and dignity of office.”

More on that last priority later.

He cited advancing the town’s stormwater master plan, street improvements, and a new “smart” surveillance system as first-term accomplishments. Danzinger outraised Burkett more than twofold.

Through March 7, he stacked about $52,500 through donations from real estate professionals and businesses, local business owners, Surfside residents and residents of nearby communities. A Jensen Beach-based political committee called People for Coastal Common Sense chipped in $1,000.

He also spent $37,500 on advertising, signs, campaign events, supplies, campaign staff, travel, postage and donation processing fees.

Heading into Election Day, Danzinger faced something of a referendum on his campaign promises and what he delivered once in office, particularly as it related to cordiality among town officials.

After winning in 2022, Danzinger said a contributing factor to his victory was how tired residents had grown of the bickering on the town dais between Burkett and former Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer, who also lost her seat then.

Burkett told The New York Times at the time that he was glad Danzinger won and described his opponent as someone with “a very similar worldview compared to me.”

That estimation evidently changed in the ensuing two years.

This past August, it was Danzinger who drew headlines and criticism for questioning whether Commissioner Nelly Velasquez speaks English after she repeatedly interrupted him during a meeting.

Velasquez, who speaks fluent English, said it was “clear” that Danzinger said what he did because she is “a Latin woman, and he is a misogynist that tries to embarrass us.” When asked later to acknowledge that he knew Velasquez spoke English, Danzinger replied, “Apparently not.”

The Commission narrowly voted against censuring him over the incident.

Later that month, a self-proclaimed Nazi threatened to kill Danzinger, an Orthodox Jew, prompting a police protection order.

During this election cycle, questions were also raised about Danzinger’s relationship with a Dubai-based development company that purchased the site of the former Champlain Towers South condo, which collapsed in June 2021, killing 98 people.

There were additional concerns about a Broward-based political committee, One Surfside, that amassed nearly $25,000 and spent more than $22,000 to sway voters to support Danzinger, incumbent Vice Mayor Jeff Rose, incumbent Commissioner Fred Landsman and Commission candidates Jared Brunnabend and David Forbes.

The PC is run by Aaron Nevins, a Republican Florida political operative who attracted national attention in 2016 when he published and distributed to journalists a trove of data stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that he said came from a Russian hacker called Guccifer 2.0.

Most of its funding came from another PC, Floridians Together for Change, whose financial sources won’t be revealed until next month due to relatively new campaign finance rules GOP state lawmakers approved last year requiring quarterly — rather than monthly — campaign finance reports.

Chelsea Road Consulting, a firm Nevins owns, also gave One Surfside a four-figure sum.

The Chair of Floridians Together for Change is Ethan Bazak, a high schooler and past intern of former Democratic Rep. Mike Grieco who now works as a legislative aide to Republican Rep. Fabián Basabe.

The Miami New Times published a deep dive into the PC, its funding and important players Thursday.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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