Can you smell the desperation in the air?
It's coming from Broward judges who have drawn unexpected opponents in their reelection attempts. They're scared. They're desperate. And increasingly, they are turning to the most ruthless political hustlers around for help.
Merciless sharks like 77-year-old Norma Goldstein, the notorious frizzy-haired retiree at Kings Point Condos in Tamarac.
I'm only half-joking. Goldstein, who is a little reminiscent of Costanza's mother on Seinfeld, is making beaucoup dollars these days as a Kings Point kingmaker. How? Well, she's not only the entertainment director at Kings Point, which has 12,000 seniors who generally vote, but she's also in Broward Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar's inner circle as a member of the Democratic Executive Committee. Goldstein is just another of Ceasar's little political soldiers, following in the footsteps of party profiteers like Diane Glasser, Barry Harris, Jack Shifrel, and Marty Rubenstein.
And Goldstein has been parlaying her unique person into political gold for years now. She's especially close to Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter, who paid her thousands of dollars in campaign expenditures. In fact, Ritter likes Goldstein so much that last year she decided to start giving Goldstein taxpayers' money to serve as a part-time county aide in her Tamarac outpost. She works 18 hours a week at $20 an hour, but nobody seems to know what she actually does to earn her money. It's in the great tradition of party politics, riding right along the edge of legality (and I'm not sure which side it's on).
But now Goldstein is getting a bonanza from the judicial candidates, and not just incumbents. Her schtick is throwing little meet-the-candidate breakfasts at the quaint little Tamarac Diner Cafe. There, she gathers about 100 seniors from Kings Point and talks about how great the candidate is and how he cares about senior citizens and the welfare of Broward County.
And she'll do this for just about anyone who is willing to give her the going rate for one of the breakfasts: $200 a pop. She doesn't even want to know all the facts about the politicians she supports -- that gets in the way of the gravy train. When I wrote a column about her and the rest of Mitch Ceasar's mob last year, she wouldn't listen when I began telling her of Ritter's various scandals, saying she didn't want to know. "I don't want to be involved in them," Goldstein said of the scandals. "I'm only involved with Stacy. You have to know Stacy, because it's to love her. I don't even read the papers anymore. I don't want to know. I don't believe in it. I believe in Stacy."
I phoned her for this post and left a message and will update when I hear from her. After the jump, see a list of judicial candidates who are using Goldstein's services this election season.[jump]
Now before we get to the list, I want to make it clear that I don't blame these judicial candidates for giving it the old Goldstein try. They have some money in the campaign coffers, and they don't know what the hell to do with it. They just want to win, and a leg up in the Tamarac condos is just what the doctor ordered, though it's of dubious actual value.
Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry held a campaign event with Goldstein at the diner in April, getting a leg up.
"Citizens from the town of Tamarac had the opportunity to meet Judge Destry and hear him give a brief speech on a fine Monday afternoon this past April fifth at the Tamarac Diner Cafe," Destroy wrote on his campaign website. "Roughly 100 people attended the event planned by Norma Goldstein to give the people of her community the chance to meet and get to know a sitting circuit court judge."
Well, I obtained Goldstein's schedule (don't ask how), and here are some other candidates and the dates the events are being held:
June 7: County Court Judge Linda Pratt, 1 p.m.
June 22: Circuit Court Judge John Hurley, 1 p.m.
June 28: Circuit Judge candidate Alan Bernstein (opposing Judge Barbara McCarthy), 4 p.m.
July 2: County Judge candidate Heidi Berkowitz (opposing Judge Linda Pratt), 1 p.m.
July 9: County Judge candidate Nathaniel "Nate" Klitsberg (opposing Judge Lee Seidman), 1 p.m.
July 12: County Judge candidate Debra Steinsaltz (opposing Judge Lee Skolnik), 1 p.m.
July 23: School Board candidate Dave Thomas (District 4), 1 p.m.
August 17: Circuit Judge candidate Rhoda Sokoloff (opposing Eileen O'Connor), 1 p.m.
August 23: Debra Steinsaltz (again), 4 p.m.
Understand this is just a partial list, but it represents nine events and about $1,800. I find it particularly interesting that Goldstein is working both sides in at least one race, as she hosts both County Judge Linda Pratt and Pratt's opponent, Heidi Berkowitz.
I've spoken to Goldstein in the past -- and here's a column I wrote about her and the rest of Ceasar's mob last year.