With the Coral Gables general election a month away, the City Beautiful’s first gay candidate has been targeted by a push poll that makes his choice of life partner an election issue.
“Would it affect your vote if you knew that Brad Rosenblatt was in a longtime relationship with a man? Would it bother you if he went to the swearing in ceremony accompanied by his male partner?”
Longtime Gables gadfly Charlie Girtman isn't quoting directly but told Ladra this week that was the basic principle of the first two questions about Rosenbatt (hotographed here with his partner of more than 10 years, fashion designer Rene Ruiz, and Gables resident Cristy McClelland at a 2009 fundraiser for a state race). Girtman said he got the call Friday evening, March 3. And it didn’t bother him just because it came at dinner time.
“You’re going to call me at my house and ask me things like that? I didn’t answer,” said Girtman, still upset four days later.
And he isn't the only one, said Mayor Don Slesnick, who got complaints for a couple other people, including Larry Adams, the retired FP&L executive, who the mayor reports was equally incensed.
"He was furious," Slesnick said. "He hated the way it was done. He said 'If I never thought about voting for Brad before, I would think about it now.'"
The mayor said he himself was not polled. "But from the description of it, I am very distressed that Coral Gables politics has sunk to a new low."The “push poll” – propaganda in disguise as a poll, intended to plant biased ideas in voters’ heads -- also asked questions about candidate Gonzalo Sanabria, 63, who ran against Commissioner Maria Anderson in 2009 and might have won, if not for the bombshell that he had never voted in the city. “Would it affect your vote/opinion if you knew Gonzalo Sanabria missed a big percent of the meetings as a member of the historic preservation board," recalled Girtman -- who has a Sanabria sign in his yard -- of one question.
He said the caller i.d. would not identify the caller and the "pollster" said the name so fast, something like Kirshner or Keebler (not the cookies, we are sure). So who is behind it?
Can we eliminate Gonzalo Sanabria, a real estate executive who ran unsuccessfully against Maria Anderson in 2009, because of those questios? Not so fast. They could be throwaway questions intended to deflect suspicion, since that argument about the meetings was made in 2009, and can't be compared to the personal nature of the questions about Rosenblatt. What about the rest of the crowded field vying to replace veteran Commissioner Wayne “Chip” Withers, who has been on the dais for half of my life: Frank Quesada, Rene Alvarez, Richard Martin II and Jackson “Rip” Holmes.
Ladra lets Holmes, a commercial real estate broker who owns property in the downtown, off the hook right away because this kind of strategy takes two things he lacks: focus and funds. No offense, Rip. You have energy and drive and even some brilliant ideas lost in there somewhere, but no Machiavellian instincts. So what about the other three?
Martin, 53, is a real estate and mortgage broker who ran unsuccessfully against Commissioner Ralph Cabrera last year. Now president of the Ponce Business Association, he is much more polished. You can tell he has been diligently working at this since the day after that election. It will be fun to watch him go head to head with Sanabria, who was sort of an ally two years ago. But Ladra doesn't think he would want to win this way.
Quesada, 31, who once worked for Gables poster boy Commissioner William Kerdyk, Jr. at his real estate firm, is an attorney with former Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli’s firm and on the board of directors at the Coral Gables Community Foundation. Ladra thinks he's one of the stronger candidates. He's a pretty boy with a Hispanic name, traffic adivsory board experience and all the right friendships.
But Alvarez, 42, an insurance executive and pharmaceutical sales representative who jumped into the pool last, might grab some of that Hispanic vote. He may not be as pretty as Quesada, but he has the same civic experience, serving on the city's public safety committee and the UM/Coral Gables Relations committee, as well as several county development and advisory boards.
So what Ladra wants to do is have a poll of our own. Our first Political Cortadito Poll. Who do you think is behind the push poll in Coral Gables?