For the second time in as many weeks, a Florida Democrat has announced plans to challenge Allen West to represent Florida's 22nd district in 2012. That Democrat is Lois Frankel -- a woman with a lot of enemies, a few quirks, and a whole lot of explaining to do.
Frankel served in Florida's congress from 1986 - 2000, and as the mayor of West Palm Beach from 2003 'til now. As New Times recounted here, she began the latter job with a strong populist wind at her back. She would fight corruption! Bring sanity to an insane city! She would be our gal on Clematis!
That didn't exactly work out.
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As former New Times staffer Thomas Francis uncovered in 2007, the mid-period Frankel administration was a paranoid behemoth stomping across PBC, leaving stalled roadworks and a faint whiff of corruption in its wake. A friend of Frankel, Ms. Joan Goldberg, was given a part-time position with the city and drew a salary of $70,000 -- "twice the salary that more qualified, more experienced, full-time employees were paid," said one ex-staffer. The pair allegedly went vacationing in the Berkshires, and for reasons that were never adequately explained, Goldberg's power waxed until she became the primary mover and shaker on a hugely expensive waterfront beautification project, making high-level administrative decisions while overruling a duly appointed selection committee. All the while, rumors of Lois Frankel's beastly temper and cronyism swirled and swirled, until her son, in a protective rage, attacked an anti-Frankel protester at last year's SunFest.
It may be that Lois Frankel is clean as a whistle, no matter what a grand jury thinks. It may be that she's merely misunderstood. What's certain is that she's a politician, and in electing to run against Allen West, she will confront a very different kind of animal -- not a negotiator, not a consensus builder; neither a wheeler, a dealer, nor a shaker of hands. The worst anybody could ever think to say about Lois Frankel is that she's corrupt; the most frightening thing one can say about West is that he's absolutely incorruptible. He actually seems to believe the things he says. If Frankel somehow wins her party's nomination to represent Florida's 22nd, the district will have to choose between a man who believes the worst, and a woman who mightn't believe in much at all.
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