Family Seeking to Tear Down Global Show Grounds Large Contributor to Wellington Election Campaigns

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Robert Margolis the current mayor of Wellington and Anne Gerwig his opponent in elections set for Mar. 15.
Robert Margolis the current mayor of Wellington and Anne Gerwig his opponent in elections set for Mar. 15.

WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 21, 2016–In two contested elections that could tip the balance of power in Wellington, the family and business associates that want the Adequan Global Dressage Festival show grounds torn down have made the largest donations mostly from out of state to the re-election campaigns of candidates that have reversed and blocked development of the horse show grounds.

The Jacobs family, executives, associates and corporate entities, most based in Buffalo, New York have donated at least $15,000 of the $41,175 raised by the incumbent Robert Margolis as of the end of December, according to campaign filings for the election scheduled for Mar. 15.

However, Anne Gerwig, who has been a council member and sometimes a lone voice supporting horse sports who is running against the mayor, has received substantial contributions from equestrians to help boost her campaign war chest to $52,195.

More than 130 contributors have donated funds to her campaign, with the largest amounts from families involved in dressage including Terri Kane and her Diamante Farms, Kim Boyer, Arlene Page and Blue Marlin Farms, all based in Wellington.

For John Greene, another candidate who was elected with the mayor and another candidate four years ago with at least $600,000 in campaign contributions from the Jacobs interests, $11,000 of the $17,000 in campaign donations this time around came from the Jacobs interests. Most of the rest came from a Jacobs ally, former nightclub and restaurant owner Neil Hirsch and associated interests.

Michael Drahos, the opponent of John Greene, has raised $24,035 from 60 contributors, almost all local.

Four of the five seats on the Wellington city council are up for elections, but candidates for two are unopposed.

John McGovern, one of the unopposed candidates has received contributions of $38,349 about one-third from individuals opposed to the show grounds and $2,000 from Mark and Katherine Bellissimo who head up the group that owns and operates the show grounds.

Michael Napoleone, also unopposed, has raised $47,759, $5,000 from the Jacobs interests in New York.

Municipal elections usually draw little attention but the massive spending on the last campaign that led to control of the local government by opponents of the multimillion dollar newly created dressage show grounds prompted many equestrians to become involved.

The election is likely to be decided by getting voters to the polls on election day where the outcome is frequently decided by no more than a few dozen votes.

The election campaigns in Wellington where the Jacobs family members compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival are being conducted at the same time as a Jacobs business is embroiled in a dispute with the National Park Service after losing the contract to provide hospitality services at Yosemite National Park in California.

DNC Parks and Resorts, is seeking $51 million for what it says is intellectual property, including trademarks on many features of the park such as the name itself. Government attorneys have valued the intellectual property at about $3.5 million and called DNC Parks’ estimate “grossly exaggerated and improper.” DNC Parks inherited some of the trademarks when it won the Yosemite contact in the 1990s, and registered others in ensuing years without the government’s knowledge, according to a Yosemite spokesman–“they did it all quietly and they did not inform us.”