Pretty Boy

Jim Stork has become the face of Broward's gay community. But is he ready for Capitol Hill?

It's approaching 8 p.m. on March 18. About 400 people are crowded together elbow-to-elbow outside Brasserie Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale. A cool breeze off the Atlantic Ocean whistles through the downtown skyscrapers as everyone waits. Then comes the music. The clapping follows. "Jimmy! Jimmy! Jimmy!" the crowd chants.

Jim Stork appears in the rear. The crowd parts, providing him with the entrance of a champion pugilist. "Jimmy! Jimmy! Jimmy!" they continue.

Dressed in a crisp, white oxford shirt with a light-blue silk tie, the candidate waves to his fans, his pink lips parting to expose two perfectly straight rows of white teeth. Stork's svelte, six-foot-three, 185-pound frame moves forward as he extends his right arm, shaking hand after hand. Near the stage, an elderly woman with white hair done up in a tight perm nudges her way to the front. "Jim!" she cries, waving her right hand. "Jim!"

Colby Katz
Jim Stork announced his candidacy for U.S. Congress on March 18 to a crowd of 400 (above). In April, Stork introduced himself to Democrats in Palm Beach County (below).
Colby Katz
Jim Stork announced his candidacy for U.S. Congress on March 18 to a crowd of 400 (above). In April, Stork introduced himself to Democrats in Palm Beach County (below).
Stork's Café and Bakery in Wilton Manors serves 175,000 patrons annually and generates $500,000 in revenue.
Colby Katz
Stork's Café and Bakery in Wilton Manors serves 175,000 patrons annually and generates $500,000 in revenue.
E. Clay Shaw (left), the 23-year incumbent, has a lopsided district thanks to his GOP buddies in Tally. Scott Newton (right) was Jim Stork's handpicked successor in Wilton Manors.
Colby Katz
E. Clay Shaw (left), the 23-year incumbent, has a lopsided district thanks to his GOP buddies in Tally. Scott Newton (right) was Jim Stork's handpicked successor in Wilton Manors.
Ronald M. Ansin (left) is one of the Democrats' top donors. He's also Jim Stork's partner.
Worcester Gazette
Ronald M. Ansin (left) is one of the Democrats' top donors. He's also Jim Stork's partner.

Stork turns and poses, his short-cropped brown hair unmoved in the evening breeze. He smiles expectantly, as if he knows his looks are sure to please. Stork takes the woman's right hand in both of his. "Hi, Fanny," he says gently. "Thank you so much for coming." He releases the grasp and walks toward the stage.

"He's such a doll!" Fanny proclaims.

Stork steps on-stage and stands behind a brown podium, his back to Las Olas Boulevard. In front of him, a yellow and green sign reads: "Stork for Congress." An image of the graceful bird rests on the t.

"We are allowed to dream, and we are allowed to turn our dreams into reality," Stork begins his speech. "That's what my story has been, following my dream and turning it into reality. Today, those opportunities are diminishing... I know what it's like to eat government cheese. We had grits and cheese for breakfast, grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and macaroni and cheese for dinner. So if I ever go to your house for dinner and I don't eat the cheese..."

The crowd erupts in laughter. Stork then takes a few minutes to discuss his background: business school in North Carolina, buying his first home with a government-backed loan, opening a successful bakery in Wilton Manors. "People thought I was crazy," Stork explains. "They said, 'You can't open an upscale bakery a mile away from two trailer parks in Wilton Manors, off the beaten path. No, it'll never work.' And I said, 'Trust my vision. '"

Stork's speech moves from thanking his bakery customers to discussing the 2001 terrorist attacks to recapping his successes as mayor of Wilton Manors, the town of about 13,000 people northeast of Fort Lauderdale.

Finally, after about ten minutes, Stork brings his oration to a close: "My strength and my vision come from the power of those who believe in me. That's where it comes from; it's that simple. The time has come for change, and I'm asking you to trust my vision and believe in me. Join me tonight as I am proud to officially announce that I am running for United States Congress in District 22."

The crowd, filled overwhelmingly with same-sex couples, cheers. It's the type of reaction Stork has grown to expect. The 37-year-old has become the face of Broward's affluent gay community. The former mayor of one of the gayest cities in the United States, Stork has built a political identity around his penniless childhood and his openly gay lifestyle. It's an identity strong enough, Stork believes, to oust former Fort Lauderdale mayor and long-time GOP U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw from office.

It is no easy challenge. After Shaw nearly lost his seat in 2000, the Florida Legislature gerrymandered District 22 into a Republican stronghold.

Stork is running on a solidly liberal platform, hoping that the rising national deficit and the increasingly bloody war in the Middle East will fuel discontent among even Republicans. He stands against the war, for gay marriage and abortion rights, and for policies that will benefit small-business owners. Ranking Democrats and news media are taking Stork's candidacy seriously, pointing to his sex appeal and his astounding ability to raise money. During the first fundraising quarter, Stork garnered $330,678, twice as much as Shaw. At the same time, a poll by the website Politics1.com named him one of the sexiest men in U.S. politics.

Yet there's more to Stork than his recent successes. While the candidate is quick to criticize his opponent, asserting that Shaw has used his previous two terms in office to become a Bush administration sycophant, the young Democrat is apprehensive about discussing his past. In 1996, Stork allegedly threatened to kill an ex-boyfriend. That same year, the future mayor was forced out of his executive position at Campbell Laboratories in Pompano Beach after a legal scuffle. And 18 months ago, Stork began dating a wealthy political donor, Ronald M. Ansin, whose clout has helped him gain credibility and cash.

Stork's South Florida campaign and his future in politics may hinge on how well he addresses these issues between now and November.


Jim Stork was born in Gainesville, then a small college town, in 1967. The younger of two boys, he didn't stay in the Sunshine State for long. When he was 4 years old, the family moved to Greensboro, North Carolina.

His father, Bob Stork, soon moved out, reappearing for visits only about once a month. Stork's mother, Annette, worked in a textile factory, carving out a subsistence living for herself and her two young boys. "There was a time when [my mother] couldn't find steady employment for 18 months," Stork explains regularly on the campaign trail. "I know what it's like to use food stamps. I know what it's like to be on welfare."

Through public school, Stork participated in track and field and weightlifting. He graduated from Greensboro's Northwest Guilford High School in 1985. "And they did not know, if that's your question," Stork offers in an interview, referring to his homosexuality. He put himself through the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with grants, student loans, and scholarships. At the time, his mother was suffering from cancer. She died his sophomore year. Stork then transferred to the more prestigious campus at Chapel Hill to finish his bachelor's degree in marketing. He graduated in 1990.

New York City immediately followed. While renting a closet-sized apartment for $1,000 per month, Stork met Richard Campbell Zahn, then a 60-year-old doctor who had invented a topical medicine to treat lip blisters caused by herpes simplex. "Zahn went door to door to pharmacies and said, 'Hey, I've got something better for cold sores,'" recalls Fred R. MacLean, a Pompano Beach attorney who represented the doctor. Herpecin-L became the sole money producer for Zahn's company, Campbell Laboratories.

Stork, who started with the company as a sales manager earning $25,000 per year, quickly improved his lot. He began traveling the United States, trying to sell Herpecin-L to Wal-Mart. After two years of hustling, he landed the lip medication on all of the retail giant's shelves. "That's what made my career," Stork explains. Campbell Laboratories, which had $3.5 million in annual sales, moved from New York to Pompano Beach in 1992. By then, Stork was Zahn's right-hand man. Two years later, at just 25 years old, Stork became vice president and chief operating officer, earning about $85,000 per year. "I handled marketing and the FDA stuff but also had to travel and handle customer service," Stork says.

However, Campbell Laboratories, which had no more than a dozen (mostly gay) employees at one time, was simply an incorporated extension of its founder. Without Zahn, there was no company. And despite the founder's research ability, he couldn't create a remedy for his own disease. On January 17, 1995, at age 65, Zahn died from complications of AIDS. Stork became the interim head of Campbell Laboratories.

MacLean became personal representative for Zahn's estate and followed the founder's wishes: Sell the company. Stork, whose hefty salary was at stake, objected to the sale and filed a lawsuit alleging that MacLean was artificially devaluing Campbell Laboratories by keeping "houseboys" on the payroll to care for Zahn's estate and dogs. The lawsuit was later dismissed. "We did work it out," Stork explains hesitantly. "It was just communication problems."

MacLean disagrees. The young chief operating officer simply wanted to stall, he alleges. "Jim wasn't as enthusiastic about selling the company as we were," MacLean says. "He probably would have been better off financially if we didn't sell."

But sell they did. Chattem, a pharmaceutical company in Chattanooga, Tennessee, bought Campbell Laboratories for $5.6 million. Most of the money went to the late Zahn's Fort Lauderdale-based Campbell Foundation, which funds HIV/AIDS research. Stork left the firm with a severance. He refers to the money as his "golden parachute." Citing a nondisclosure agreement, the candidate would not say how much money he received.

Whatever the total, he used that cash to open Stork's Café and Bakery in 1997 in Wilton Manors, which at the time was beginning a renaissance. Georgie's Alibi, a gay bar, had just opened in a strip mall along Wilton Drive. New businesses and residents followed. Property prices began to rise, and by 2000, the gay community had established firm control over the city. That year, voters elected an out-of-the-closet mayor, John Fiore, and a majority-gay city commission, the nation's second. (West Hollywood, California, elected the first in 1997.)

By 2002, Stork's Café had become trendy, serving roughly 175,000 people per year and garnering best-of awards from local newspapers, including this one. By then a popular businessman and chairman of the Oakland Park and Wilton Manors Chamber of Commerce, Stork was considering a part-time job in politics. "Jim wanted me to run for mayor," recalls Gary Resnick, then vice mayor of Wilton Manors. "But I didn't want to be mayor, so somehow I convinced Jim to run instead."

Stork remembers it differently. "The people in the city were asking me to run," he says, noting that organizing post-9/11 commemorative activities in Wilton Manors raised his profile as a civic activist.

In January 2002, Stork announced his candidacy at a time of strife on the commission. "People were frustrated with the bickering and the arguing," remembers Wilton Manors City Commissioner Ted Galatis, who was elected with Stork that year. In his first race, Stork brought in nearly $40,000 in campaign contributions -- more than both of his opponents combined.

In the March 2002 election, Stork won 53 percent of the vote in a three-way race, beating Fiore as well as City Commissioner and former Sun-Sentinel reporter Joanne Fanizza. It marked the first time in American history that an openly gay mayor succeeded another openly gay mayor.

Among the programs Stork championed was the Main Street Project, an ambitious public-private partnership intended to revitalize Wilton Drive. Stork also persuaded his fellow commissioners to hire a lobbyist to represent Wilton Manors in Tallahassee for the first time. That expense proved largely wasteful, but Stork succeeded in other areas. He used public dollars to encourage mixed-use development in Wilton Manors, including Wilton Station, a ten-acre gated village that will include lofts, townhouses, and business space.

"He believed in the city spending a lot of money, the big government idea," Resnick says. "The state should spend money to encourage business. In the past two years, Wilton Manors spent more than ever in its history."

In 2000, Wilton Manors' total budget expense was $12.9 million. During Stork's last year in office, the city spent $16.4 million.

Indeed, the city's financial wherewithal has become a concern. "They spent money like there's no end," says William Main, a lifelong city resident. "I'll be glad when I move to Palm Beach County. Wilton Manors is going to wind up in bankruptcy."

In his defense, the former mayor cites independent audits that confirm the city is on solid financial footing.

Yet the city wasn't particularly generous with the rank and file during Stork's tenure. Last summer, Wilton Manors performed a study that showed municipal employees' salaries were lower than those of workers in comparable cities. The commission voted to increase pay for everyone. Only one vote was cast against the raise: Stork's. "I wanted more of an analysis [in the study]," says Stork, who now claims that he supported the "idea" of raising wages.

Still, many city residents and business owners view Stork's tenure as positive. "There's a sense of excitement now with the city and with the City Commission," Terry Norman, co-owner of Georgie's Alibi, says as he sits at a rocking table outside the airy bar. "Before Jim, there was so much dissent with the old guard."

"I'm a little disappointed Jim won't be mayor again," adds George Kessinger, Norman's business partner and the bar's namesake.

Largely because of the positive image Stork built in Wilton Manors, he caught the attention of political leaders in Broward and elsewhere. Mitch Ceasar, chair of the Broward Democratic Party, believes Stork's fresh political face will prove to be an asset in District 22, which includes about 630,000 people who live along coastal Palm Beach and Broward counties and inland in Coral Springs, Wilton Manors, and Plantation. "I think people look at a candidate's experience, but they also look at the quality of the person," Ceasar says. "Jim offers quite a bit. He's young and has a fresh perspective."

But not every Democrat agrees. Says Stan Smilan, a military veteran and fellow Democratic candidate for Shaw's seat: "Stork is just going to fuck the whole thing up. All he's going to do is get the gay and lesbian parade. They're going to march around and conduct a freak show."


It's 2 p.m. on an April afternoon, and Stork's Café and Bakery on NE 15th Avenue in Wilton Manors is bustling. Nearly every table is occupied with patrons, mostly male and gay, reading newspapers and magazines as they sip gourmet coffee. The white, concrete-block coffeehouse, which was formerly a jewelry store, generates $500,000 in revenue annually. At one of the larger tables sits Jim Stork, dressed in a blue oxford shirt with small white polka dots. Next to him is recently hired media handler Stephen Gaskill, who during the Clinton administration was a spokesman for U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

The Stork campaign so far has called great attention to this bakery, mentioning it regularly in speeches and literature. The message is clear: As a successful small-business man who came from nothing, Stork would be your everyman in the Beltway.

The candidate doesn't emphasize other parts of his private life, though. "Once you become more public, people want to know about your personal life," Stork explains. "I've always tried to separate it the best I can." There's a reason. One of Stork's previous relationships ended in two restraining orders. Stork and ex-boyfriend Ray Pardue allegedly threatened to kill each other.

The problems started in late 1995, after Stork and Pardue split following a seven-year relationship, court records show. At the time, Stork was 28 years old. Pardue, then 64, was leasing from Stork the condominium they had once shared. But when Pardue stopped paying rent, Stork filed eviction papers. To make matters worse, Stork alleged, Pardue was harassing and stalking him.

In filing for a restraining order, Stork told the court that he'd been receiving prank calls. He suspected they were from Pardue. Additionally, in October 1995, Stork alleged, Pardue "threatened to kill myself and my roommate (Richard Streb)." In January 1996, after Stork took back a car in his name that Pardue had been using, the ex-boyfriend allegedly left a threatening message: "This is war." Two weeks later, the rear tires of Stork's green Mitsubishi 3000GT were slashed, according to the court filing.

Even after Stork filed for the court order, the threats and harassment allegedly continued. On April 12 of that year, Pardue circled the Hillsboro Executive Center in Pompano Beach and peered into the office windows of Campbell Laboratories, four of Stork's co-workers told the court. "The following week, I discovered, while walking through the parking lot, cards with the name of James Stork and the office phone number strewn through the parking lot with obscenities placed on the cards," testified Andriana Doncovio, a Campbell employee.

It seemed the boyishly good-looking Stork had become the victim of a jealous ex-lover. But that was merely one side of the story. His ex-lover told the court that he was, in fact, the quarry. In filing for his own restraining order, Pardue claimed that Stork had threatened his life as early as October 1995. The reason: He would not, following their breakup, leave the condo that Stork owned. "He said if I returned to the apartment, he would do dire things," Pardue claimed. "He said he would kill me and make me very sorry." That same month, Stork took Pardue's checkbook and financial papers from the condominium, the man alleged.

More threats followed. The next month, Pardue claimed, Stork said he would "haunt me to my death." Regrettably, Pardue isn't available to confirm his claims; he died of cancer on July 12, 2000, two years after he and Stork settled out of court for undisclosed terms.

"I think it kind of illuminates that same-sex couples have similar problems as heterosexual couples," Stork says in his defense. "They have bad relationships, and it was unfortunate."

Stork maintains that such personal issues are irrelevant to his campaign, which stresses inclusion, fiscal responsibility, and small-business activity. He'd like to focus attention on Iraq and our struggling economy.

But did Stork indeed threaten to kill Pardue? "It was very uncomfortable, very difficult..." Stork responds. "It certainly was a difficult time for me during that period -- "

"It's a relationship that ended badly," Gaskill interrupts. "It's not relevant to this campaign."


The temperature is comfortably in the mid-70s on Saturday, April 3, as about 100 people, mostly gay and middle aged, gather in the backyard of 40-year-old Melissa Fojtik's $450,000 riverfront house in Wilton Manors. A local property mogul, Fojtik has long blond hair and a large, muscular frame. A member of the Dolphin Democrats, a gay political organization in Broward, she has a record of supporting local gay candidates and influencing Wilton Manors politics.

Tonight, she's opened her airy house for $50 per head to raise funds for Stork's congressional campaign. About 9 p.m., she takes a microphone and begins a short introduction by the pool. "I am so proud to know this man," Fojtik tells her guests. "I knew him before he was mayor and wholeheartedly supported him. I was so proud at any time to wear a shirt, a button, talk to a neighbor about him, love him like a brother -- our next congressman, Jim Stork."

Wearing khakis and a blue oxford unbuttoned at the top, with a cell phone strapped to the left side of his brown belt, the smiling Stork walks toward the pool and takes the microphone from Fojtik. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had told him that he needed to raise at least $250,000 to prove that he was a viable challenger to Shaw, he explains. And the first fundraising deadline had just passed. "We reached out to a lot of you, begging for money..." Stork tells his supporters. "We're not sure of the final numbers, but we've hit over $300,000." The crowd cheers. "We're not done yet," Stork warns. "We still have to raise $2 million."

Raising so much money might seem like a monumental task for the former mayor of a small town. But if his early efforts are any indication, Stork appears likely to garner at least that amount. In the first fundraising quarter, Stork gathered more than twice Shaw's total during the period -- though Shaw still has $529,377 left over from his 2002 campaign war chest.

Stork is an example of a political trend. As gays nationwide have attained affluence and at the same time become more accepted, openly gay politicos have risen to power. Gay wealth is flowing into the coffers of liberal candidates like Stork. The trend has only been accelerated by the Bush administration's push for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. "I think it's going to be amazing how much Jim will be able to raise," Commissioner Resnick says. "It's going to a test for the gay community nationwide."

"Jim's a high priority for us," adds Robin Brand, vice president for campaigns and elections for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Leadership Institute. The Washington, D.C.-based organization connects openly gay and transgender candidates with major gay donors across the country. Founded in 1991, at a time when only 50 open gays held public office in the United States, the Victory Fund supports local, state, and national candidates. Since its inception, the Victory Fund has raised more than $3.5 million. Today, there are 270 openly gay public officials, including three U.S. congressmen. If elected, Stork would be the first openly gay U.S. representative from Florida.

But becoming a gay-rights leader in Washington isn't the primary reason Stork decided to run. "Jim was one of those kids in his 20s that rarely voted," says Ronald M. Ansin, Stork's 70-year-old partner. "Yet two things happened: As a business owner in Wilton Manors, he began thinking where his city was going and saw it even more as president of the Chamber of Commerce. The second was 9/11. That had a remarkable effect on a lot of us. In his case, I think it woke him up. He said, 'We've got to be coming together and doing something. '"

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."

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."

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