“I’m a life-long Republican. Make no doubt about that.”–Bruce Roberts, February 2009
Shortly after throwing his hat into the race to be the next City Mayor, Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce Roberts quit the Republican Party. In his first commission race back in 2009, Roberts told the Sun -Sentinel, “I’m a life-long Republican. Make no doubt about that.” In October 2015, Bruce Roberts was a member of the “Broward County Campaign Leadership” team for Jeb Bush’s ill-fated Presidential Campaign.
In March 2016, Bruce Roberts opened his campaign to replace the term-limited Mayor Jack Seiler. In an email response to REDBROWARD, Bruce Roberts admitted he left the Republican Party a few months later. “My NPA voter registration card was issued 7/15/16,” Roberts wrote. The Commissioner did not respond to questions about his reasons for leaving the party he has called home since October 1969.
So, why did Bruce Roberts abandon the Republican Party?
Did the rise of Donald Trump scare off the Bush-supporting Roberts? Doubtful. While many Bush supporters would never jump on the Trump bandwagon, they remained loyal Republicans. In fact, Roberts’ fellow Jeb Bush Broward campaign leaders did not leave the Republican Party.
In the summer of 2016, nearly everyone in the world still believed Hillary Clinton would be the next President. Did an opportunistic Roberts’ take a page from the Charlie Crist handbook by leaving the GOP in the hopes of currying favor with the future President Hillary Clinton?
Back in 2009, then-Governor Charlie Crist enraged Republicans by kissing up to President Barack Obama. In 2010, when Marco Rubio beat him in the U.S. Senate primary, Crist left the GOP. Like Roberts’, Crist became an NPA Voter. Two years later, Charlie Crist became an official member of the Democrat Party.
Roberts would not be the first Republican to switch parties in order to win a Broward election. One of Roberts’ closet advisers, Judy Stern, is no stranger to party-switching candidates.
But these candidates are rarely involved in high level party politics like Bruce Roberts. Surely the Jeb Bush campaign would be sensitive to Roberts’ needs to stay out of partisan politics, especially in South Florida. Still, Roberts was trumpeted as a member of Team Jeb.
While Republicans may be outnumbered in Fort Lauderdale, even Democrat voters tend to be more conservative when it comes to city elections.
Is Roberts planning a left-wing turn to fight off Democrat challenger Charlotte Rodstrom? Will Republican voters abandon Bruce Roberts like he abandoned the Party? Will Bruce Roberts inherit the “flip-flopper” mantle from Charlie Crist? Will a new Republican candidate jump into the race?
Was Bruce Roberts even going to mention his party change?
Fort Lauderdale voters will have their say in February 2018.