South Florida Trend: A Complicated Election

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association announced the winners of its annual election of directors Jan. 28, but in true South Florida style, it wasn't easy.

Trainers Harry Benson and Bill White both retained their seats, but Richard Root, who had been the acting president since Scott Savin resigned to take the job as president of Gulfstream Park, was defeated. Newcomer Shaun Musgrave was the third trainer elected.

Among owners, Samuel Gordon and Jack T. Hammer were the leading vote-getters. Incumbents Sanford Bacon and Solomon Garazi were defeated.
Though the Florida HBPA had not yet received it, Bacon reported that he has filed a formal protest to the election based upon the possibility that Hialeah Park used its position to unfairly influence voters.

"The protest is done on the basis that no track should use stall space or other threats to coerce horsemen," Bacon said.

Hialeah officials made no secret they intended to become involved in the election. They believe the Florida HBPA is too closely aligned with Gulfstream and Calder Race Course. The four candidates Hialeah management supported -- Benson, Gordon, Hammer, and Musgrave -- all won seats.

"That was something we were concerned about," said Linda Mills, the Florida HBPA election committee chairperson. "But in an emergency meeting, the board decided to count the ballots as usual, because otherwise we would be disenfranchising voters."

In November, the national presidential election was thrown into turmoil amid claims of ballot fraud and voter disenfranchisement. After a month of recounts and legal challenges, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, now president, was officially declared the winner in Florida over former vice president Al Gore.