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Judy Stern: The World Is Hers (Almost)

A lot of people know their local commissioners and other politicians who represent them by name. Well, maybe 20 percent of them anyway. Only a select few, however, know the names of the real powers in their towns and counties.

I am, keeping with this morning's theme, talking about the lobbyists who pull the strings.

At the Broward School Board, that was Neil Sterling and Barbara Miller -- until one of their chief marionettes, Beverly Gallagher, was hit with federal corruption charges and it was exposed (here) that Sterling had the husband of another, Stephanie Kraft, on his payroll.

At the county, one of the chief powerbrokers has been lobbyist/campaign consultant Judy Stern. But her power is waning there fast. She recently lost one of her prized politicians, Josephus Eggelletion, to the same federal investigation that took down Gallagher. She's been estranged from a couple of other commissioners, leaving her with only two really strong allies on the County Commission, Lois Wexler and John Rodstrom.

But Stern is like rust -- she never really

sleeps. The woman is relentless, merciless, and cutthroat. She will do and say just about whatever she needs to do to take and maintain power (I know since she launched one of her patented personal attacks at me after I exposed Eggelletion on this blog).

You should know that Stern already has the Fort Lauderdale City Commission under her thumb (her strong alliances there include Jack Seiler, Charlotte Rodstrom [John's wife], Bobby DuBose, and Bruce Roberts). Believe me when I says she's not the type to let the county slip away.

And if all the pieces come together, Stern will have another majority on the county very soon.

First, Stern is quietly supporting Steve Geller, the lobbyist and former state senator who is running against Commissioner Sue Gunzburger. That's no easy undertaking, but if it somehow happens, that would make three.

Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin is leaving politics under the cloud of a corruption investigation; Stern is looking to get her clutches on that seat. Running for the open spot is Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo. And if he wins, score a victory for Stern.

As soon as Castillo filed last week to run for the seat, his wife, Lisa Castillo, quit her day job to run his campaign. What was Lisa Castillo's day job? Well, she worked as -- drum roll, please -- Judy Stern's assistant at her consulting firm.

Before working with Stern, Lisa Castillo served as an aide for County Commissioner Jim Scott, who was another Stern loyalist. It was after Scott lost to now-Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl that Lisa Castillo went to work for Stern.

I suppose her husband, Angelo, is a frontrunner in the race, so it looks to be another notch on Stern's belt. That would give her four.

So who is the ever-elusive fifth sympathetic soul who might give Stern a majority on the nine-member commission? Well, that could be none other than Broward County Republican Party Chairman Chip LaMarca, who is considering a run against the aforementioned Keechl.

I spoke with LaMarca today about his impending decision, and let me put it this way: He didn't dissuade me of the idea that he was going to file against Keechl. It sounds like he's going to do it, but until he announces, anything could happen.

Stern backs LaMarca, that much is sure. Today I asked the GOP chair if Stern would run his campaign if he challenges Keechl. Stern, you see, can't stand Keechl since he beat her old boy, Jim Scott, the previous lone Republican on the board. It would be sweet revenge for the bitter Stern to come back and crush Keechl with LaMarca.

LaMarca acknlowledged he's had conversations with Stern about the race but said that although she would support his bid, he would have others actually running his campaign.

Don't worry, though; Stern would have her influence -- she always does. And if her plan comes together, it'll be Judy's world again. We'll just live in it.

-- Here is a photograph that Riveria Beach activist Fane Lozman recently took of his beloved floating home, which has been destroyed:

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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