Election Shocker: Caletka Challenges Rodstrom

Caught up in the presidential primary races? Well, you don't have to go to New Hampshire this week for political entertainment anymore. The local election season just got a whole lot more interesting.

Davie Commissioner Bryan Caletka has confirmed to the Pulp that he is going to resign his seat to run for the county commission seat held by John Rodstrom. Caletka's entry makes it a four-man race for District 7, which covers most of Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach, and Davie.

"I'm going to announce it on Monday, but I guess I'm announcing it to you right now," Caletka told me on the phone.

Caletka is abandoning his reelection campaign in Davie and will ultimately have to resign his (sure) seat. Coming into the race with him will be the brunt of the $61,000 in campaign money he's raised in Davie. With contributors' blessings, Caletka is planning to transfer that money to his county coffer. While he won't be able to raise as much Rodstrom (who has already declared $100,000 in contributions for this race and ginned up $180,000 in 2004), it's surely enough to get a solid campaign going.

And he's in a good position to snare a solid percentage of the vote in the race with Rodstrom, Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Carlton Moore, and Robert McKinzie, who only narrowly lost to Rodstrom in 2004.

Rodstrom didn't sound impressed, though.

"How many terms has he served as a commissioner? How well-known is he? I’ve never even heard of the guy," Rodstrom said. "He’s not a well-known person. He thinks after one term as a commissioner, he can get all the votes in that city? I don’t know."

While the veteran Rodstrom at this point is likely be the betting man's favorite, underestimating Caletka would be a huge mistake. I think Rodstrom could breath easy against Moore and McKinzie (who is the brother of Miriam Oliphant) only because the latter two are likely to split the black vote. Now with the 30-year-old political upstart Caletka in the race, District 7 is surely one of the hottest local races of the year.

Caletka, a science teacher at Western High, has heavily researched his district and believes he can win. I don't know if he can pull it off, but there is no doubt he is a serious challenger. Just look at the same numbers Caletka has been crunching.

Rodstrom, Moore, and McKinzie all hail from Fort Lauderdale, which holds 42 percent of the district's voters. They'll probably split those votes, with Moore and McKinzie further splitting the black vote. More of the same in Dania Beach, which holds 22 percent of the district's vote.

Caletka's stomping ground of Davie has 36 percent of the district's votes and only five percent of the western suburb's population is black (versus about 20 percent in both Fort Lauderdale and Dania Beach), which will likely limit the reach of Moore and McKinzie (though a breakthrough by Moore is remotely possible).

Caletka, though relatively new to the political scene, has a firm foundation in Davie. He claims his internal polling shows he has a 6 to 1 favorable rating in the town. In 2006, he won his Davie seat by not only defeating monied incumbent Lisa Hubert, but trouncing her with 75 percent of the votes in his district.

Think about it. If Caletka can win Davie convincingly and eke out a respectable showing in Dania and Fort Lauderdale, he's got more than a third of the vote in his pocket. In a four-man contest, that might just be enough to score a victory.

That's a lot of speculating, though, and Rodstrom is no Lisa Hubert. He's one of the most seasoned and, yes, well-known local politicos around and has a knack for winning elections. Moore isn't a lightweight either. You might think McKinzie has no chance, but he only lost to Rodstrom by a few hundred votes last time (when Rodstrom and third candidate Randy Dunlap split the white vote).

All I can say is let the race begin.

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