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LGBTQ+ Candidates Vie For Local Office In Palm Beach County

While running for office, several candidates have battled homophobia. The Lake Worth Beach, Delray Beach and Palm Beach municipal elections take place on March 19.

Photo by Rob Maxwell via Unsplash

Mary Rasura | MediaLab@FAU

Feb 23, 2024

They’re here, they’re queer, and they’re running for office.

March elections are fast approaching. There are at least five members of the LGBTQ+ community who are running for municipal office in Palm Beach County, three of whom are in Lake Worth Beach and two of whom are running against each other. 

But in Delray Beach, it’s gotten ugly. 

Nicholas Coppola, a candidate for city commission in Delray Beach, was called a “faggot” by a volunteer on his opponent Anneze Barthelemy’s campaign in an incident that was caught on mic. They are both running for Seat 3 on the Delray Beach City Commission. 

“This is not reflective of the Delray Beach community, without a doubt. I could walk down Atlantic Avenue with my arm around [my partner] David's shoulder comfortably,” Coppola said. “We've seen it. We have enough of our LGBTQ+ community walking on Atlantic comfortably. She is not a norm in this city.” 

Florida has captured the nation’s attention, not only for its sunny beaches but also for a string of anti-LGBTQ+ bills such as Gov. Ron DeSantis’s infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill 

Rand Hoch is the president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC), a local LGBTQ+ rights organization that endorses candidates for local office. He echoes Coppola’s concerns about the mic incident.  

“Although one of Anneze Barthelemy’s paid campaign staffers used a homophobic slur when referencing Nicholas Coppola, she refused to publicly condemn it or even apologize,” Hoch wrote in a statement. 

“Imagine if this had been the other way around and a straight white man made a homophobic remark about a lesbian, Haitian-American candidate!” Hoch continued. “Barthelemy is not fit to hold public office. Hopefully, she will be soundly rejected by the voters in Delray Beach.”

Barthelemy distanced herself from her volunteer staffers and their homophobic remarks. 

“I don’t agree with what they said, and I will not be using them anymore,” Barthelemy told Florida Jolt, a conservative-oriented news publication. “What people do in their bedroom is not my business.”

Andy Amoroso and Alex Cull are both running for Lake Worth Beach mayor, along with the incumbent mayor, Betty Resch, and William Joseph, a fourth candidate. 

Resch is a straight ally who received PBCHRC’s endorsement for mayor over the two LGBTQ+ candidates. She presented the effort to declare Lake Worth Beach as a sanctuary city for the queer community. 

“Rand [Hoch] called me last summer and asked, ‘Would you sponsor a resolution declaring Lake Worth Beach a sanctuary city for the LGBT community?’  Resch said. “I said, ‘Of course.’ And I did it.” 

Amoroso emphasized the importance of allyship while also sharing his personal experiences with homophobia. 

“I want to thank our allies out there because allies have been very supportive. But even being an openly gay man, you always have to look over your shoulder, especially as an elected [official],” said Amoroso, who previously served as District 3 Commissioner and Vice Mayor.  “I remember the one email that I kept from my ten years at City Hall was from a church group saying that my mother should have aborted me.” 

Cull has also been the victim of homophobic language. 

“I myself, as many queer people have over the years, suffered from hate attacks,” Cull said. “Just this last year, someone called me a faggot when I was trying to find PVC piping in Home Depot, just because my shorts were a little too short that day, I suppose. It’s vital, vital, vital that queer people like myself feel safe here.”

Sarah Malega is the third LGBTQ+ candidate running for elected office in Lake Worth Beach. She is running for reelection for the City Commissioner District 1 seat and received the Palm Beach Post’s endorsement along with Resch. Malega was also endorsed by LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, a PAC (Political Action Committee) focused on increasing the number of LGBTQ+ public officials  in the United States. 

Malega was a pivotal player in Lake Worth Beach’s declaration as a sanctuary city for the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Our mayor brought that forward and read it, but I was 100% behind it,” Malega said. “I've created the first city’s LGBTQ liaison for staff and residents. My very first month in office, when they did my ID badge, I asked to have my pronouns on my badge. Nobody in HR knew what I was talking about, so I had to educate them on pronouns.”

John David Corey is running for a Palm Beach Town Council seat. He says that while being gay is a part of his identity, it doesn’t define him. 

“I don't differentiate myself at all, and I don't think anybody else does either,” Corey said. “They see somebody that's hard-working, successful, determined. And that’s it, I’m running on my merits.”

Mary Rasura is a journalism student at FAU and the editor of OutFAU, a monthly publication focused on the LGBTQ+ community.

From left to right: Candidates Alex Cull, Andy Amoroso, and John David Corey. (Courtesy)

Sarah Malega, who is running for reelection for the City Commissioner District 1 in Lake Worth Beach. (Courtesy)

Nicholas Coppola, a candidate for city commission in Delray Beach, has faced homophobia during his campaign. (Courtesy)

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