Broward News

[UPDATED] Election Was a Campaign Consultants' Battle Royal; So Who Are Winners and Losers?

In the months before yesterday's election, Broward candidates lined up behind campaign rainmakers who possessed extraordinary powers for rounding up votes. Of course, they would share these powers only if the price was right. Since incumbents could outraise their challengers, incumbents could afford to pay the campaign operatives.

Now that we have the election returns, we can see if those operatives earned their big paychecks.

To make things a bit more fun, let's give these campaign operative teams nicknames, treat this election like it's just a big softball tournament, which it kind of is.

The biggest team belongs to Norma Goldstein, who for $200 gives a candidate the opportunity to treat her and her fellow Kings Point condo residents to lunch at the Tamarac Cafe. Local judicial candidates found her offer too good to pass up. 

The Norma Royals

John "Jay" Hurley: County Court Group 12 ($1,255) WON
Linda Pratt: County Court Group 13 ($1,016) WON
Mary Rudd Robinson: County Court Group 14 ($515) WON
Nate Klitsberg: County Court Group 26 ($1,427) LOST
Kenneth Gillespie: State Circuit Judge Group 2 ($1,712) WON
Elijah Williams: State Circuit Judge Group 4 ($1,350) WON
Matt Destry: State Circuit Judge Group 15 ($2,300) WON
Carlos Rebollo: State Circuit Judge Group 22 ($2,800) WON
Alan Bernstein: State Circuit Judge Group 23 ($1,600) LOST
Eileen O'Connor: State Circuit Judge Group 53 ($1,362) WON
Rhoda Sokoloff: State Circuit Judge Group 53 ($2,100) LOST
Robert Mayersohn: Broward County School Board, District 4 ($1,475) LOST

That's an overall record of 8-4, which is a little mixed for Goldstein. Klitsberg lost despite also paying operative Barry Harris $500 and an even more shadowy operative, Percy Johnson, $200. Rebollo's failure to convincingly beat Bob Nichols was a real setback to operatives, who were part of the reason Rebollo spent $127,000 in his race, compared to $15,000 by Nichols.

Mayersohn's defeat for the School Board is more expected. In fairness to Goldstein, she didn't have much time to wrangle voters on his behalf, and the winner in that race, Dave Thomas, had spent heavily with Harris.

This is time-consuming work. But stay tuned for recaps of other teams, including those led by Jack Shifrel, Sunstream, Barry Harris, Amy Rose, and Ed McGee.

UPDATE: Next, let's see how Shifrel's "Jack Rabbits" fared in yesterday's election.

Lineup card, please:

The Jack Rabbits
John "Jay" Hurley: County Court Group 12 ($800) WON
Robert Jakovich: State Circuit Judge Group 15 ($1,000) LOST
Carlos Rebollo: State Circuit Judge Group 22 ($1,750) WON
Alan Bernstein: State Circuit Judge Group 23 ($3,000) LOST*
Lee Seidman: State Circuit Judge Group 51 ($4,500) LOST
Rhoda Sokoloff: State Circuit Judge Group 53 ($1,750) LOST

* I put an asterisk next to Bernstein's loss, because he had a falling out with Shifrel midway through the campaign that Bob Norman reported here.

This was a fairly disastrous showing for the Jack Rabbits, with an overall record of 2-4. And of those two wins, one was Hurley, who didn't spend enough on Shifrel to make the argument it made a difference in the race; and the other was Rebollo, an incumbent who won by just 1,300 votes, despite spending five times as much as his challenger, Bob Nichols.

You can bet it will be a little harder in the next campaign cycle for Shifrel to convince judges it's worth paying him to ensure that their names make it on condo palm cards.

Barry Harris, your team is up.

Barry's Brawlers
Nate Klisberg: County Court Group 26 ($500) LOST
Debra Steinsaltz: County Court Group 3 ($3,000) LOST
Lloyd Golburgh: County Court Group 4 ($1,380) LOST
Rhoda Sokoloff: State Circuit Judge Group 53 ($500) LOST
Dave Thomas: Broward County School Board, District 4 ($8,000) WON

Harris is going to try to argue that yesterday's election proved once and for all that candidates have to spend several thousand dollars on him, Dave Thomas-style, if they want to win. But with an overall record of 1-4, good luck with that pitch.

It's not all doom and gloom. Next we'll identify a newer, more successful generation of political consultants, beginning with the Sunstream Obamabots, so called because its two principals, Ashley Walker and Jackie Lee, cut their teeth during Obama's Florida campaign two years ago. They're young, smart, and thus far we've got no evidence they're unethical, which in a cynical political county like Broward might hurt their business.

Sunstream Obamabots
Ken Gottlieb: County Court Group 20 ($4,060) WON
Carlos Rebollo: State Circuit Judge Group 22 ($17,000) WON
Laurie Levinson: Broward County School Board, District 6 ($2,000) WON

Here's a team that won with just three players -- maybe we should call them the Miami Heat? Rebollo, who also hired Harris, Shifrel, and Goldstein, spent the vast majority of his consultant budget on Sunstream, so if any outfit gets credit for helping Rebollo beat the jinx against Latino candidates, it's Sunstream. As a former state senator, Gottlieb had a big advantage in name recognition in his race against Steven Schaet, so that result wasn't a surprise. But Levinson's convincing defeat of Phyllis Hope for School Board was quite the stunner, and since Sunstream was the only consulting group Levinson hired, it deserves praise for engineering that victory. (Although Hope's boarding the FBI yacht with Beverly Gallagher made her a little easier to pick off.)

Next, another new figure on the scene: Amy Rose.

I'm told Rose was a disciple of the Godmother of Broward political operatives, Judy Stern. Correction: Rose was actually a disciple of another Godmother of Broward politics, Barbara Miller. Sorry about the mix up.] These days, Rose runs a consulting firm she calls Win on the Ground, based in Coconut Creek. Here are her candidates:

The Rose Bowlers
Kenneth Gillespie: State Circuit Judge Group 2 ($3,000) WON
Barbara Anne McCarthy: State Circuit Judge Group 23 ($5,000) WON
Frank Luzzo: State Circuit Judge Group 24 ($6,000) WON
Sandra Perlman: State Circuit Judge Group 51 ($5,000) WON

Yes, it looks like Rose learned a thing or two from Stern Miller. But let's hope Rose shows a bit more restraint when it comes to seeking influence after she puts a candidate in office.

Let's wrap this up by taking a peek at how Fort Lauderdale attorney Ed McGee performed for his clients.

McGee works as treasurer for campaigns, but it's clear that his services are a bit broader than that, so we'll count him among the consultants.

Ed's Empire
John "Jay" Hurley: County Court Group 12 ($13,500) WON
Elijah Williams: State Circuit Court Group 4 ($9,000) WON

I could have sworn that McGee had at least one more candidate, but these two are confirmed. McGee stands a good chance of getting more business in the next cycle based on this showing.

A few other consultant types:
  • Terry Scott: The Deerfield Beach operative was paid $4,265 to be campaign manager in Travis Williamson's bid for the District 7 School Board seat but won only 24 percent of the vote, losing to Nora Rupert.
  • Dan Lewis: The Fort Lauderdale operative who specializes in hit mailers was paid $58,000 by Lisa Porter and nearly $10,000 by Gillespie. Both judicial candidates won reelection.
  • Judy Stern: Every election cycle, it seems to get harder to detect her presence, as she guides candidates to not pay her directly. But there's no question she had a role in Angelo Castillo's bid for School Board county commission, and she must be devastated that he was so thoroughly trounced by Barbara Sharief.

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Thomas Francis