By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
That strategy appears to be working in Newton's favor, as Grano so far has played down the politics of sexual orientation. "I do not believe I have to be gay to be mayor of this city," the HIV-positive Grano says. "I'm a candidate for mayor who just so happens to be gay."
But that's a big mistake, says gay political columnist Mayberry. "If you were a Polish politician in Chicago," he says, "you would obviously go to a lot of Polish affairs and you would make sure that everyone knew you were Polish. It would solidify your ethnic base. It seems to me that Grano made a tactical error. He didn't solidify his gay base."
And Grano needs that base more than ever. The gay candidate's checkered past, which includes drug and grand theft charges that were later dismissed, has been dredged up. His last arrest was on May 12, 1997, when Grano rode his bicycle to 629 NE Fifth Ave. in Fort Lauderdale at 11:52 p.m. A Fort Lauderdale police officer stood in the parking lot, working undercover as a drug dealer in a sting operation.
"I need a dime piece," Grano reportedly told the undercover officer, referring to $10 worth of crack cocaine.
"I got that for you," the officer said, according to the police report, then showed him a piece of crack cocaine in a small baggie.
"I ain't never seen you here before," Grano said. "What are you, a cop?"
"I just moved here, and I've never seen you before, but money has no identity."
The undercover officer held out his hand, and Grano took the drugs. He then handed over $10. "Thanks, man," Grano said.
As Grano began to ride away, police officers arrested the future Wilton Manors mayoral candidate. Following Grano's rehabilitation, the judge dismissed the drug charge. He has cleaned up and now runs a successful real estate practice.
"I do not regret my past," Grano says. "I couldn't be here right now if I hadn't lived what I lived. The only reason I lived that way is because I didn't know what I didn't know. Today, I know. You've got to put one foot in front of the other. I'm now probably one of the cleanest, most upstanding citizens I know."
William Main, a lifelong Wilton Manors resident, supports Grano's candidacy despite his previous addiction. In fact, he and Grano have discussed it. "He's not trying to hide it," Main says. "Joe felt that the past can be overlooked with his willpower to do something good for the city. I said, 'If you're that strong, I think you should run.' "
But an addict turned mayoral candidate who fails to garner the gay community's support will need a lot more than strength to win the top job in Gayville.
Meet the candidates: The local gay media will host a forum for the Wilton Manors mayoral and City Council candidates at Hamburger Mary's, 2449 Wilton Dr., at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 25. New Times staff writer Trevor Aaronson will be the panel's token straight man.