Thursday, August 18, 2011

First slates, now staffs stiffen up

Campaign teams are forming as paid political operatives attach themselves to candidates and slates in the upcoming Hialeah elections.

Most recently, interim alcaldito Carlos Hernandez and Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez were spotted at a Starbuck's on West 49th Street Thursday morning with absentee ballot queen Sasha Tirador and gypsy con artist and Tiradorita-in-Training Vanessa Brito. "It was a private meeting," Garcia told Ladra when we asked earlier this afternoon. "And I don't have to talk to you about anything." After the call was mysteriously disconnected, Garcia-Martinez returned a subsequent phone call and, in a much more friendly and open manner, told Ladra that Tirador was her campaign manager and that Brito -- who did not return several phone calls, as usual -- was "doing numbers and stuff for me.

"Vanessa and I have been friends for a long time and we worked the Frank Lago campaign together," Gavelgirl said referring to the state rep race where the chief of staff to Sweetwater Mayor Manny Marono lost to cigar czar Jose Oliva. Brito, as chair of Miami Voice, had simply endorsed Lago and was not supposed to have worked the campaign professionally, but she does that all the time. She also said Tirador was on board. "She's always been in my campaign," Garcia-Martinez said before Ladra reminded her that she had not raised much and Tirador is a pricy professional. "I always raise funds and pay her," Gavelgirl said, adding that she had done some fundraising since the last reporting deadline.

Tirador was a little more comic and cryptic about it.

"The meeting was in reference to a blouse that Isis and I are going to buy at Macy's," she said, thrilling Ladra with a reference to an earlier blog post (She likes me! She really likes me!) and proving that political operatives can have a sense of humor, too.

The meeting was a follow up to a proposal that Tirador made to the two incumbent candidates, she told Ladra. She said she met the group there and, though she worked with Brito in the recall effort against former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Millan -- both she and the Miami Voice PAC chair (who she thought was a "volunteer" until Ladra told her) were paid consultants for Norman Braman -- she said she did not make a partnered pitch with Brito and was surprised to find herself at the same table. "I went to a meeting. I didn't know who was going to be there."

Tirador, widely rumored to be working for Hernandez already, said she had made proposals to both the acting alcaldito and former State Sen. Rudy Garcia (Rep., District 40), though certainly not former Mayor Raul Martinez, who she helped beat in the Congressional race where she worked for Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and who she repeatedly called an obscenity, daring me to quote her (more on that later and I will). But since she is on board with Garcia, and Garcia said she was definitely on slate with Hernandez, Ladra is going to go out on a limb and say the absentee ballot queen, who has worked with both incumbents in past races, is on his team too.
Besides, Garcia said he hasn't met with Tirador in weeks. And, while the veteran state legislator guardedly answers questions in some secret agent language that you don't exactly know if he answered your question or not (read: not), he seems to indicate that she will not be working on his campaign. "For the time being, she is not part of the team," Garcia said, again insisting that he has not hired anybody. Everyone else in the biz -- the same malas lenguas who say that Tirador is already with the incumbents and that council candidate Lago is part of the slate -- says Garcia has got Ana Carbonell, Al Lorenzo and Dario Moreno. Garcia-Martinez said Lago was not necessarily part of the slate -- yet. "I like him. He's a great guyy. But we don't have a slate yet. We'l work that out in the next week or so."

Not to be outdone, of course, is Martinez, a political powerhouse who already has Jeffrey Garcia (who helped Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez and is now working on the Miami Commission incumbent campaign for Marc Sarnoff) on board and will meet with former State Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla next week. The DLP, who Ladra has a love/hate relationship with, has been rumored for a couple of weeks to be on the Martinez side but Mr. Mayor had denied any connection -- until today. Martinez said the former senator -- a brilliant if somewhat offbeat guy -- called him as he recovered from back surgery last week (that's why he was MIA from the Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez supporter thank you shindig at the Big 5 Club, which turned into a Hialeah campaign stop, last week).

"He's bright, he's respected," said Martinez (and Ladra might add reckless and unstable but mighty good-looking). Mr. Mayor already got a $500 contribution from the Becker Poliakoff lawfirm where the Dean's brother, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (Rep. District 36) works. "I've known them since they were kids. I knew their father," Martinez said.

So this could turn out to be a big rematch between Dean Diaz de la Portilla, who worked on the pivotal Gimenez run-off, and Tirador and Carbonell who were on the same team in the county mayoral race working for former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina. The Dean, who had worked with Brito on the Gimenez campaign and, we hope, didn't teach her too much of what he knows, won that one. It will also put Jeff Garcia and Brito against each other in a second November race: Brito is working on the campaign for candidate Kate Callahan against Sarnoff. As Ladra has mentioned, it is an incestuous business. Even Emiliano Antuñez of Dark Horse Strategies, who represents a third of four candidates, Dona Milo and worked against the Dean in the race for the Miami-Dade Commission District 7 seat but with him in the Gimenez run-off -- but against him and with Tirador in the Robaina primary -- may also team up with Brito Tirador (anew) on the Hernandez team in Hialeah.

Ladra has to go now. There are new flow charts to draw.

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