RIVIERA BEACH — When Mayor Michael Brown steps out of his Singer Island law office, he can see who is to blame for his failed reelection bid: His neighbors.
Singer Island voters abandoned Brown and handed Bishop Thomas Masters a block vote that propelled the community activist to a decisive win over the incumbent. A preliminary precinct analysis of Tuesday's municipal election shows that Singer Island gave Masters a whopping 1,316 votes to Brown's 284.
Citywide, Masters beat Brown 3,302 to 2,461, according to unofficial figures released Thursday by the supervisor of elections office. In 2005, Brown beat Masters citywide 2,929 to 2,161.
Overall, Singer Island residents cast 28 percent of all votes in the municipal election.
The gap between Brown's loss and Masters' win on Singer Island caught the mayor off guard. The Singer Island response was a backlash to the city's deal to redevelop the Ocean Mall on the island.
"I'm really surprised that the spread would be that large," said Brown, who was first elected mayor in 1999. "There are those people on the island who bought into the notion that the redevelopment plan would have a negative impact on the island."
Brown is partially correct, said Tony Gigliotti, chairman of the Singer Island Civic Association, which supported Brown in 2005.
The association backed Masters in Tuesday's election after being disappointed that Brown had become divisive.
"I think that everyone shares a great amount of frustration over Michael," Gigliotti said. "A tremendous amount of that frustration was played out here."
Singer Island numbers were up because voters were angry that Brown and the city council approved $280 million deal with builder Dan Catalfumo to redevelop the mall at the municipal beach. Residents formed the Public Beach Coalition, which was able to get two charter amendments on the March ballot that threatened to undo the city's deal.
Both amendments passed, keeping building height at the Ocean Mall to five stories and limiting leases on the city-owned land to 50 years. Catalfumo wanted to build a 28-story condo/hotel at the site and now is deciding whether to pursue litigation.
Masters, meanwhile, reaped Brown's loss on Singer Island. He also cut into Brown's mainland base, winning precincts that he lost two years ago.
Masters, pastor of New Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, won the city's largest precinct, which votes at the Tate Recreation/Dan Calloway Complex and has 2,173 registered voters. Masters received 338 votes to Brown's 312. In 2005, the bishop lost the precinct to Brown, 392-287.
"I wanted people to know Thomas Masters the man, not the community activist or the guy they see on TV," he said. "I went in wanting to connect with the people."
He also upped the stakes by hiring political consultant Richard Giorgio of Patriot Games to run this campaign. A part of the strategy was to target the Calloway area because its where Brown's 2005 win was the most decisive, he said.
"I did a lot of knocking on doors," Masters said. "There was a lot of anti-Michael Brown sentiment out there."
The bishop also won the precinct that votes at Wells Recreational Center, which is the second largest in the city with 2,147 registered voters. Masters lives in the precinct's Park Manor neighborhood.
Masters received 313 votes at Wells to Brown's 292. Two years ago, Brown won the precinct, getting 341 votes to Masters' 285.
After the election, Brown charged that Masters coerced residents into voting absentee, violating Florida election laws. City Clerk Carrie Ward will conduct an investigation into Brown's claims.
The numbers show that Masters' strategy of using absentee ballots seemed to pay off. At Calloway and Wells, for example, Masters lost the precincts based upon the people who voted at the polls.
But when the absentee ballots are added to the total, Masters took the city's two largest precincts.
"I wanted to win this election all over the city," Masters said, "not just in one area."