Edward Portner says he won't be campaigning for the Tamarac mayor's seat after being released from jail, but he won't withdraw from the race either.
The 84-year-old Portner was released from jail on Friday after he menaced his daughter, Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter, with a gun at her Parkland home. Portner, a former Tamarac city commissioner, was angry not only that his daughter supported his opponent, Mayor Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco, but also because he felt that she wasn't showing her mother, 81-year-old Helen Portner, the "proper respect" either. He said the gun was never loaded and he never intended to harm her physically.
"My irritation has been building up for a long time, not for myself but for my wife," Portner told me this morning. "[Ritter] never called; she never came over to see my wife. My wife has two broken hips in 18 months; she is almost blind in one eye. I felt Stacy wasn'tshowing her the proper respect. What I did wasn't about me; it was about my wife."
Ritter said Friday that at one point during the struggle in her home, Portner aimed the gun -- a Luger he obtained from an unlucky German soldier during World War II -- at her head. When she told him that he was going to kill her, he responded, "You're killing your mother with your behavior."
He said Ritter, who said she has been avoiding her father for months because she felt that she was a "flashpoint" for his anger because of the Flansbaum-Talabisco endorsement, had been communicating with her mother strictly by email. And he said his trip to Parkland with his unloaded Luger was sparked by an email in which Ritter had asked Helen Portner for a favor. He wouldn't elaborate on the content of the email. "I object to emails because you can't get the tenor of what people are really thinking from emails," Ed Portner said. "I know this is a world of high technology, but person to person is best."
The visit with the gun was meant to "frighten" Ritter and force her to sit down and talk about her mother and other matters, said Portner. "I wanted to frighten her, number one, and then sit and talk with her," he said. "In the heat of everything that goes on, I wanted her to understand my hurt and my feelings. But it was the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life."
After losing a struggle for the gun, Ritter feigned needing a glass of water before escaping through the garage door and running down the street for safety in her bathrobe and slippers.
"I looked through the house and saw that she had left," Portner explained. "Then I got in my car and drove home."
BSO arrested him that night, and he had to spend four days in jail before he was released Friday.
"Before you go to jail, make sure you eat because the food is not all that great," he said. "How do you describe something that has no taste? They give you bologna and cheese. They give you a cup of cereal in the morning. They give you I-don't-know-what in the afternoon."
He said he was put in the infirmary because he had a history of heart attacks. "They say stay to yourself in that situation, and that's what I did," he said.
Portner disputed Ritter's contention that he his mind has been going of late, which she said was the reason she didn't endorse him. "I don't think I'm mentally unsure of anything," he said. "As you grow older, you lose some facilities, but I don't think I've lost that much. I think I'm as [competent] as anybody in my circle, maybe more so."
I asked her if Ritter might have been afraid he would do something to harm him or her.
"I can't hurt her; she has enough of her own problems right now," he said, clearly alluding to an FBI corruption investigation involving Ritter and, to a greater degree, her husband, lobbyist Russell Klenet. "I love her very, very much. I believe she made a mistake. Right now, I'm on virtual house arrest, but sometime in the near future, I'm sure we'll get together and we'll discuss things and we'll cry on each other's shoulders and we'll get through this."
While facing armed burglary and aggravated assault charges, he is currently fitted with a GPS device and has been barred from entering the entire town of Parkland, where his daughter lives and the incident took place.
He said his daughter supported him in his first race with a letter of endorsement to the Bermuda Club Condos complex. He said that she never campaigned for him and that he never asked her to do so.
He said that when he told her was going to run for mayor in late April or early May, after Ritter had already endorsed Flansbaum-Talabisco, Ritter's response shocked him. "She said to me she didn't think I should do it," he recalled. "I looked at her stunned, and that was the end of it."
He also believes Flansbaum-Talabisco holds some blame for the family rift.
"I feel that if the present mayor had any character whatsoever, she would have told Stacy, 'It's your father; I will not accept your endorsement,'" he said. "But she lacks character. She has a very nice and gracious way of talking with the people of Tamarac, but she's very condescending. People take that as sincere, which I don't. I talk straight, which is what I do. I say what is on the tip of my tongue. People in my family object to that, but that's the way I am."
Although he said he wouldn't campaign, that sounded a little bit like it. I asked him whether, if his legal situation is resolved and somehow the voters elect him, he would serve in office.
"I'm not campaigning, I'm not making any appearances, I did the most stupid thing in the world," he said. "But politics are strange; you never know until the last vote is counted."