She may be small in size, but Gabrielle Redfern -- the only woman on the 11-member county mayoral wannabe contest -- has big you-know-whats.
Repeatedly uninvited to candidate forums and debates, Redfern is likely the one responsible for getting all the B-list candidates into The Miami Foundation's debate on the UM campus Tuesday. The next day -- and likely buoyed by the Kendall Federation of Homeowners Association's endorsement - Redfern practically stormed on stage at Temple Israel for the Downtown Bay Forum forum.
"I'm going up there," she told Ladra shortly after the organization's chairwoman, Annette Eisenberg, told her she could not participate.
She wavered a bit and neither of the two front runners to show up early to the grilling by Diario de las Americas editor Helen Ferre -- former State Rep. Marcelo Llorente and former Commissioner Carlos Gimenez -- made any gesture to help her. It took the gallant Jose "Pepe" Cancio, whose naturally noble character is a welcome charming change of pace, to make it happen.
With Redfern on his arm, the giant Bay of Pigs vet, savvy businessman and state GOP insider insisted to Eisenberg and board member William Peña Wells that Redfern (who ran and lost last year in the Miami Beach city election) should and, indeed, would accompany him to the stage. Ladra arrived to the mini drama late, but heard Eisenberg offer admonishment in the form of campaign advice. "You don't have to do this. This is not good for you. You are a candidate."
Cancio quickly retorted, "She's a candidate, too." No wonder his nickname is Papi Chulo, a moniker he has embraced since mayoral candidate Luther Campbell -- who was missing from this forum -- baptized him with it after one of these very forums.
Papi Chulo's support may have given Redfern the strength to stand up, literally, to Peña Wells after Eisenberg ordered him to block the candidate from the stage (pictured here), and she just walked on by him looking him straight in the face. It was a very "make my day" moment.
Sharp contrast to the bunny in the headlights moment brought to us by Jeffrey Lampert.
After Redfern took what really should have been her rightful seat next to Llorente, and Gimenez welcomed her (uh, a little late buddy), the former commissioner said that Jeffrey Lampert -- a fire department logistics employee who has taken an administrative leave to take a stab at his first ever run for political office and chooses the highest seat in the state's biggest county -- should also join the debate. Lampert was hesistant. "Only if I'm invited. I'm just here to have lunch," he skirted. Then, after he took his seat, he grovelled again. "I'm very humbled to be allowed to have this opportunity to come up here."
Humbled? What? Wimp! Growl. Redfern, who earned that seat, should have turned to her left and slapped him out of that hypnotic spell he's been in since someone told him to enter the race. At least she will get the chance to do that figuratively on May 24.
She certainly has the you-know-whats.
But while that earned her points with Ladra, Gabrielle's gumption was not appreciated by all.
"The board did not vote to have the full complement," a visibly frustrated Eisenberg later told me about inviting only six candidates. "It takes away from the forum. These are important issues an we need to hear from the front runners here." Really? Farid Khavari is a front runner to Gutsy Gabrielle? The man admitted himself that he was not going to get elected. "In Miami, I don't have to tell you who gets the votes," he said. Then what is he doing? Oh, yeah: Selling his eight books. Or is it nine now? He was the only candidate to answer Ferre's question about who they would vote for if they were not in the race, and it was Cancio. The most charming of the candidates, who would likely be doing better if his accent were less pronounced (an unfortunate and sad truth), immediately turned to him and offered him a county job already. "You're going to be my economic star," he said. But he wouldn't call him a front runner, I bet.
Eisenberg said that the time Redfern and Lampert took from the others was a waste. "They don't have a cockamany chance in China. Have any of them held office? Have any of them contributed anything to society? Just because you want to run for mayor is not enough reason to run for mayor," she said.
Ooooh. Harsh, Annette. I might agree that some of these candidates should have run for a commission seat instead, but don't we want political outsiders and fresh blood that has never held office? Haven't these people contributed to society through their work on transit issues and with inner city kids? Maybe you just don't know enough about them because you won't give them a chance. Ladra has certainly learned more about some of the more obscure candidates at these exchanges, even if they are a bit too repetitive with their slogans and auto-accolades. Don't they have any media or PR people, speech writers, to change it up a bit? There are a few more opportunities to jazz things up (and more than one way to get your messages across).
There might be one for some business networking group at 94th Aero Squadron around lunchtime Thursday and the other is at 6:30 p.m. at Charles Hadley Park, 1350 NW 50th St., where it looks like the floor will be open to questions after your new two-minute opening acts. Organizers have said that eight of the 11 candidates have confirmed they would attend.
Ladra bets Gutsy Gabrielle is one of them.