Monday, February 14, 2011

Politics...Miami Beach style

If you live in Miami Beach and you think life has been a little boring lately and you've been waiting for things to get interesting...your wait is over.

As the Herald reported back on January 26, Steve Berke, a "comedian and former reality show contestant [has] formally announced his bid to be Miami Beach mayor."

Berke will run against incumbent Matti Bower.

But if you're hoping that Berke's candidacy might inject a little humor Miami Beach's political scene, where campaigns have historically been ugly, think again.

One knowledgeable source told me this afternoon that Berke is gearing up to run a well-financed "dirty" campaign.

"It's going to be nasty," my source told me.

One clue to just how nasty things might get can be found in the Herald's Jan. 26 story.

The paper says that one of Berke's advisors is 59 year-old Republican political consultant Roger Stone.

Roger Stone
In 2007, Stone made headlines in New York State after it was alleged that he "left a threatening telephone message at the office of [then] Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s father."

In reporting the allegations in 2007, the New York Times added this background on Stone:
Mr. Stone has been a controversial figure in state and national political circles for decades. He cut his political teeth as a teenager in the campaign of Richard M. Nixon, working for the Committee to Re-elect the President, and later was a partner of Lee Atwater, one of the highest-profile political consultants of the 1980s.

Aside from some notable political victories, Mr. Stone has left behind a trail of short-lived campaigns, feuds with former friends and clients, and, above all, rumors of dirty tricks. As he once put it in an interview, “if it rains, it was Stone.”

He oversaw Ronald Reagan’s campaign operations in New York but was on the outs in some Republican circles after backing the upstate billionaire Tom Golisano’s third-party bid against Gov. George E. Pataki in 2002. A dossier about Mr. Stone’s past exploits prepared by a former opponent and still circulating among New York Republicans runs to 74 pages.
Closer to home, the Times reported in the 2007 story:
During the Florida recount in 2000, George W. Bush’s campaign enlisted Mr. Stone and his wife, Nydia, who is of Cuban ancestry, to rally support among Cuban exiles in Miami, according to Jeffrey Toobin’s “Too Close to Call,” a book about the recount battle. Mr. Stone was also instrumental in organizing the so-called Brooks Brothers Riot, the book said, when hundreds of Republican activists stormed a county election office in Miami and demanded that workers there cease recounting presidential ballots.
Stone, who now lives in Miami, was asked by Toobin - for a 2008 New Yorker profile titled "The Dirty Trickster" - why he moved to Miami.

"Stone quoted a Somerset Maugham line," wrote Toobin: “It’s a sunny place for shady people. I fit right in.”

Another shady figure who's almost certain to play a role in Berke's campaign is Miami Beach strip club owner Leroy Griffith.

A Griffith/Berke alliance is seen by some as a perfect marriage.

Griffith, for years, has waged an unsuccessful campaign to get elected officials to change Miami Beach's law banning the sale of alcohol in clubs where total nudity is allowed. Berke says he'll campaign to bring back "glitz and glamour" to Miami Beach.

Some insiders expect Griffith to play a behind-the-scenes role; pumping cash into Berke's campaign.

Yep, this is going to be very interesting.

How interesting?

The answer can be found in the last few lines of Toobin's New Yorker piece: “Remember,” Stone said. “Politics is not about uniting people. It’s about dividing people. And getting your fifty-one per cent.” (Stone’s rule: “The only thing worse in politics than being wrong is being boring.”)

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