By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Stork has few financial incentives to run for office. In fact, he's doing quite well as it is. His bakery is a success, and next month, Stork will open a new location on Las Olas Boulevard that he expects will be even busier than the original Wilton Manors place. What's more, the candidate owns three properties in Broward worth roughly $340,000 total.
Running for Congress is an act of public service, Stork says. But he couldn't do it alone. As Stork gives his poolside speech in Wilton Manors, his partner stands in the background. Ansin is a well-known Massachusetts philanthropist and major-league political donor. Dressed in khakis and a blue oxford shirt, a near-identical outfit to Stork's, Ansin listens attentively with arms crossed at his chest. The two men have known each other for eight years. They became partners 18 months ago. "It was one of these things we would talk about off and on for a number of years," Ansin says. "Even kidding, we'd say, 'Gee, you know, on paper, we'd be terrific. If we're both single some time, we should get together. '"
Heir to the L.B. Evans shoe fortune, Ansin served as commissioner of commerce and development under Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and then-Lt. Gov. John Kerry. Ansin's brother, Edmund, owns South Florida's Fox affiliate, WSVN-TV (Channel 7), and pioneered the if-it-bleeds-it-leads television journalism that became known as "Miami-style news."
Ansin divides his time between Massachusetts and South Florida, where he owns a $2.7 million mansion with his brother in unincorporated Miami-Dade County and a $575,000 Aventura condo, which he owns alone. Ansin is the father of two children, both about Stork's age: 39-year-old Kenneth Ansin, who now heads L.B. Evans; and 35-year-old Robert Ansin, chief executive of the Massachusetts Innovation Center, a business incubator.
"He's a wonderful person," Stork says of Ansin. "But since I'm the candidate and I'm the one running, I'd like to focus on running the race and not so much on my personal life."
But ignoring Ansin in Stork's life would be tantamount to ignoring Hillary in Bill Clinton's. He's essential to Stork's congressional bid. Since 1990, Ansin has pumped more than $500,000 into the campaigns of various national Democratic candidates and committees. His list of recipients reads like a Who's Who of the liberal elite: Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Nelson, Carl Levin, and Russ Feingold, among many others. And that doesn't include the 2004 Democratic presidential contenders -- Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman -- all of whom received $2,000 checks signed by Ansin. In fact, Ansin's contributions to Democrats are so significant that his name was among those on a controversial Democratic National Committee call list given to President Clinton and the first lady in 1997.
A former DNC trustee, Ansin denies that he's used his political influence to bolster Stork's campaign. "How would it be that he couldn't make a run for Congress if it weren't for me?" Ansin says. "It would be way off for anyone to think he couldn't run without me." But the facts suggest otherwise. Ansin donated $2,000, the legal limit, to his partner's campaign and employed his influence, however subtly, to encourage other major donors. Among the high-level Democrats whom Ansin introduced to the former Wilton Manors mayor are Robert Farmer, treasurer of Kerry's presidential campaign, and DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias. Both men have made fundraising calls on Stork's behalf, Ansin admits. "They don't do it for me," he explains. "Sometimes, people will say, 'Oh, they're doing it for Ron.' But then it's a question of whether they like Jim."
Stork has received a significant number of donations from Ansin's home state of Massachusetts, including a check from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Although the Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post reported recently about Stork's hefty fundraising, both newspapers missed the essential back story: Ansin.
"The saying used to be, 'Behind every great man is a great woman,'" Resnick says. "But now you can say, 'Behind every great man is another great man.' That's certainly true of Jim and Ron."
Indeed, though the wealthy New Englander is an asset to Stork's campaign bank account, he's a liability to the candidate's image in District 22. Among Stork's most valuable political features are his good looks. In fact, as Stork enjoys pointing out, he's the third most attractive man in U.S. politics, behind North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Gov. Jeb Bush's son, George Prescott Bush, according to the Politics1.com online poll published March 29.
Although Stork is openly gay, he rarely attends public functions with Ansin. One of the reasons could be because, while homosexuality is accepted by many South Florida voters, large age differences still raise eyebrows.
"Jim is an openly gay man. I don't think he's ever tried to hide it," says Dean Trantalis, who in 2003 became the first openly gay city commissioner in Fort Lauderdale. Unlike Stork, Trantalis is often seen at public events with his partner, real estate agent Richard Smith. "But [Ansin] is a very private individual, and Jim is trying to respect that," Trantalis continues. "From time to time, depending on the audience, Jim is accompanied by Ron, and he's very proud and pleased to be with him."