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Democratic Party Operative Says He Sees the Light

By day, Ron Mills is a Democratic area leader and president of the Dolphins Democrats, an influential and active gay political club.

Mills, left, with another Republican, Sheriff Al Lamberti, and fellow Democrat Michael Albetta, right.
Mills, left, with another Republican, Sheriff Al Lamberti, and fellow Democrat Michael Albetta, right.
Miami Herald

By night, he quietly worked as Ron Mills, political operative man.

He runs a firm call Footprint Strategies that carries out those often-annoying political "robo-call" campaigns. He also does promotional phone work for the insurance industry.

It's no surprise that a Democratic Party official in Broward County would profit on his position -- the ethically bankrupt party leaders, beginning with the likes of lobbyist Mitch Ceasar and cash-stuffer Diane Glasser, have for years pimped out their positions for lucre. Jack Shifrel and Barry Harris have refined the practice into a kind of black art. 

In this last election, however, he got himself into a little trouble by apparently violating two separate loyalty oaths, one with the Democratic Executive Committee and another with the Dolphins.

In both oaths, he swore to support only Democrats.

But Mills worked for a Republican last month when he received $2,000 from the GOP member's campaign account for robo-calls. Inside, see who it was he supported and how he says it has since changed his life.   

Mills went to work for Oakland Park candidate Shari McCartney, who won a seat on the commission. McCartney is a registered Republican.

While Mills points out that the Oakland Park race was nonpartisan, he acknowledges that the state Democratic Party determined that the only true nonpartisan contests are judicial races.

So he violated his oath.

"I understand that, and it's not going to happen again," Mills told me today. "[Shari McCartney] is an out lesbian who has pretty much the same philosophy as I do, but she is a Republican." 

Mills isn't totally contrite. He says the story about his McCartney work is being pushed by a competitor in the political game (I learned of it from an anonymous packet sent to my home), and he says that after 15 years in local politics, he's well-qualified to work on campaigns.

But he says he had a talk with his political role model, Dean Trantalis, who was the first openly gay Fort Lauderdale commissioner, and he decided that he was going to cut out all work for political candidates -- Democrat, Republican, or otherwise.

"Dean Trantilis suggested that I need to decide which one I'm going to do, either be a party official or an operative," Mills said. "He said that even if I wasn't doing anything wrong, it creates a perception that something is wrong. He said that whether I would make a good political operative or not, I had to choose one or the other. And Dean is one of my mentors, so I listen to him. I'm still going to do robo-calls for Democratic clubs and commercial concerns, but that is it."

I asked him if he would support outlawing the practice of elected Democratic officials.

"Well, they are really often the most qualified to do the job...," he began.

I told him that it sounded like he was backtracking and that I was beginning to think everything he'd said was just lip service to end the talk of his Democratic minibetrayal. Besides, how could we know for sure he wasn't getting any money from campaigns when he could have third parties, like campaign managers, pay him outside the public eye?

"When it comes to elected leaders, DEC management, they should not work for any campaigns," he clarified. "I will support a bylaw to do that."


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