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But Trantalis acknowledges that a much older gay partner could be the red herring that Shaw will use to shift debate away from serious national and international issues. "I would hope that Clay would respect Jim's private life for what it is," Trantalis says. "Any attempt to use that in the campaign would show a weakness."
No dirty politics needed, Shaw says. "I'm not going to make [sexual orientation] an issue unless he does," the congressman says. "I'm not sure Jim Stork is well-known outside of Wilton Manors. People right here in Fort Lauderdale say, 'You don't have a race this year, do you?' And I'll tell them, 'Sure, I do -- Jim Stork.' They'll say, 'Who?'"
Despite his impressive fundraising abilities, Jim Stork may well be headed for a political beating. He likely faces too many obstacles to beat Shaw.
Stork's greatest hurdle will be Palm Beach County. The wealthy county isn't a welcoming political arena for a gay man. Ask U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, who recently pulled out of the race for U.S. Senate after the issue of his sexuality arose. What's more, while Stork is well-known in eastern Broward County, he's a stranger to voters north of the county line.
Another difficulty is the demographic of District 22, which the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature created after Shaw narrowly defeated Democrat Elaine Bloom in 2000. Two years later, running in his new lopsided district, Shaw easily beat Palm Beach County Commissioner Carol Roberts, winning 61 percent of the vote.
Then there's Shaw himself. The patriarch of a well-known Fort Lauderdale family, Shaw has significant name recognition and a reputation for delivering federal dollars to his constituents. Despite his conservative voting record, Shaw tends to be well-liked among South Florida voters.
Even if Stork can continue to raise fistfuls of cash with the help of his politically connected partner, matching the 23-year Republican incumbent dollar for dollar, his campaign may well fail.
"Here's what the Democrats are going to get and regrettably so," says candidate Stan Smilan, who has raised $625. "They're going to get a guy who's 37 years old, the mayor of a small community, a businessman, but most famous of all, a gay man. I think the major issue is going to be that there won't be many people favorably disposed to electing a homosexual to Congress."
"It's going to be a rude awakening for Stork when he runs and he turns out to be a loser," adds William Main, one of Stork's former constituents in Wilton Manors. "That's what will happen. Shaw's been here too long. His family knows everyone in town, and he's done well for the majority of taxpayers in this state. Yet Stork seems to think his popularity in the area will be enough to send him to Congress. If you've got a bakery, that doesn't mean I'm going to vote for you as a congressman.
"Stork will lose," Main continues. "He'll get 25 percent at the most. I'll take a wager on that."