Get used to the name Mayor Trantalis.
Fort Lauderdale voters on Tuesday gave a clear victory to attorney Dean Trantalis, 64, to take over where Mayor Jack Seiler leaves off. Bruce Roberts, the city’s former police chief, trailed far behind Trantalis, with about 35 percent of the vote.
In District 2, including the beach and central city, voters overwhelmingly selecting slow-growth candidate Steve Glassman over former commissioner Tim Smith. In District 4, the southern end of the city, leadership training coach/preacher Ben Sorensen eked out a win over medical doctor Warren Sturman.
Trantalis will be the city’s first openly gay mayor, following mayors who at times clashed with LGBT groups and residents. Mayor Seiler generally enjoyed a good relationship with the LGBT community, but he faced heat in 2014 when he voted against a symbolic resolution supporting gay marriage and last year when he participated in a prayer breakfast featuring a group that’s known for anti-gay rhetoric. Mayor Jim Naugle before him was pilloried as a “homophobe” for his numerous comments offending gay people.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, congratulated Trantalis for making history.
“Mayor-Elect Trantalis has a true passion for public service and fighting for civil rights,” she said in a written statement. “This is a massive victory for Broward County and the LGBT community nationwide."
The LGBT group Equality Florida campaigned for Trantalis and Glassman, who also is openly gay. The group said Trantalis is the “first gay mayor of a major Florida city.”
“We’ve made tens of thousands of calls to pro-equality voters in the City of Ft. Lauderdale about the importance of voting in this election,” the group said in a news release.
“When Dean takes office, Fort Lauderdale will be the largest city in the South with an openly LGBTQ mayor and his voice will resonate throughout the region,” former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, head of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in the news release.
Mayoral candidate Roberts hinted at the issue in campaign ads, saying “Washington-based groups with hidden agendas” supported Trantalis. Roberts was criticized for ads that depicted Trantalis as a puppet with lipstick and rouge, but Roberts said it wasn’t intended as gay mockery.
Trantalis said the results show the city “has evolved into a much more diverse and cosmopolitan municipality.” He said he was glad the race was about issues and not about “gay or not gay.”
“It was a campaign about infrastructure and traffic and overdevelopment and the homeless,” he said. “The landslide that now occurred gives me a feeling I’ve been handed a mandate for change, and that’s what I’ll do.”
Voters at the polls Tuesday said they chose Trantalis over Roberts, 70, because they were convinced Trantalis would help guard against further overdevelopment, and would ensure the city is prepared with sewer pipes and other infrastructure to accommodate it. Trantalis voted in December against allowing eight high-rises and six shorter buildings to be built on the Bahia Mar public land at the beach. Roberts voted in favor of it.
Though both candidates are current city commissioners, Roberts was considered the establishment candidate, with the endorsement of Seiler. Voters also rejected Seiler’s pro-development pick in District 2, Tim Smith.
“I think it’s mainly about the buildings,” voter John Frantz said outside George English Park polling place Tuesday afternoon. Frantz said he grew up in South Florida, moved away, and then returned two and a half years ago to see the changes. “I’m not against change. It doesn’t seem as planned out as it should be.”
Glassman, a beach condo resident, and historical preservationist devoted to watching City Commission meetings for the past 20 years, said his was a victory “of people over politics.” Smith attempted to convince voters that Glassman was the developer-friendly candidate. That didn’t work.
“Ours was an honest, straightforward campaign about fixing our infrastructure, real solutions for traffic, and smart growth that proactively plans for the future,” Glassman, 65, said in a text message, “and I am so excited that the people of Fort Lauderdale agreed with us.”
Sorensen, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, won by 54 votes in Fort Lauderdale District 4, with 50.49 percent.
Sturman acknowledged he likely had lost but said the close results showed you “you don’t need to raise a fortune.” Sturman had $42,465 in his account in total, to Sorensen’s $118,184.
About 16.5 percent of the city’s 121,000 active voters participated, according to statistics from the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office. Turnout in the January primary was 14 percent.