How did the West Palm Beach mayor's reelection attempt turn into such a fright?

On this day, Zucaro and Bob Beaulieu, a candidate for commissioner, plan to walk a south-end neighborhood they say has been long forgotten by the Frankel administration, perhaps because it's dominated by Cuban and Guatemalan immigrants unlikely to vote.

As he steers his royal-blue sedan south on Dixie through Antique Row, Zucaro explains how Frankel is known to West Palm Beach neighborhood activists as the "Queen of Mean" and is too preoccupied with the downtown development community to tend to their concerns.

"I want to convey that I'm a different personality," Zucaro says. "I want to refocus on the neighborhoods." Zucaro's other talking points are just as bland: a ten-year bond to make infrastructure improvements and a rollback of taxes combined with more fiscal restraint. If West Palm Beach is tired of having a flamboyant mayor, Zucaro's the antidote.

Mayor Lois Frankel put the West Palm waterfront project into the hands of Joan Goldberg, above.
©Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post
Mayor Lois Frankel put the West Palm waterfront project into the hands of Joan Goldberg, above.

Zucaro served on the commission from 1995 to 2002 and in the years since has devoted himself full-time to running his nonprofit, the World Trade Center Palm Beach, which promotes international trade for the region.

Bob Hobbs and Andrea Parmenter, members of the South End Neighborhood Association, meet Zucaro in front of Hobbs' bungalow, which sits at the top of a T-shaped intersection, a few blocks west of Dixie. Hobbs has a problem with cars driving through the intersection and crashing through his front yard. He says that Frankel's administration won't let him post orange traffic cones for aesthetic reasons. So now it's an ideal location for a Zucaro yard sign.

Parmenter has problems with possums and prostitutes, and she has the sneaking suspicion that there are cockfights happening down the block. The possums invaded her home after a neighbor's tree fell over in a hurricane, and the city hasn't enforced its removal. Parmenter calls police three times a day about prostitutes on Dixie, to little effect. But what most upset her was her toddler falling over a broken piece of sidewalk not fixed by Frankel's Public Works Department. So Zucaro's infrastructure soundbite is a hit with her.

After about an hour walking a stretch of several blocks, Zucaro's back is wet with perspiration, and he's hardly met any qualified voters. It's time to go home. Hobbs and Parmenter can tell their neighbors that the mayoral challenger was here.

Besides, the person doing most of the work for this campaign is Frankel herself.

The grand jury report has made Frankel's $400,000 election look like dirty money, and Zucaro's own lack of campaign funds has looked like a point in his favor.

On February 25, the Palm Beach Post endorsed Zucaro, based almost entirely on Frankel's faults. The following day, Zucaro attends the commission meeting, content to stand in the back of the room — away from the TV 18 camera lens — as the gadflies swarm the mayor. As Frankel and Mitchell screech at each other, Zucaro says under his breath, "This is just fucking absurd."

A few minutes later, he mumbles "What a circus!" and walks out.

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