Fort Lauderdale’s Long History Of Gutter Politics




Fort Lauderdale residents. When you open your mail box for the next two weeks, be prepared to hold your nose.

The reason is the January 16 city election. Fort Lauderdale has a long history of vicious, nasty political attack ads.

The latest example is hit pieces mailed this week against Commission Dean Trantalis, one of three candidates for mayor.  Others candidates are Commissioner Bruce Roberts and former Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom.

Like most of these attacks, the ad doesn’t deal with real issues like managing growth or fixing the deteriorating infrastructure. One piece smells of homophobia, some voters say. Another accuses him of lying.

If we wanted to parse comments from all three candidates we could find plenty of false statements. Easily. They might call it spin.  The rest of us would call it lying.

Still, obviously the authors of this cheesy, amateurish-looking mailer believes accusing Trantalis of lying will work.


A portion of one anti-Dean Trantalis attack ads mailed this week.


The ad was paid for by Florida Community Alliance, one of the myriad of shadowy campaign organizations that can be traced back to Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron.

Who else can be traced back to Herron?  Bruce Roberts campaign strategist Judy Stern, a local lobbyist.

Stern has a long association with Herron. Campaigns she is involved with has used Herron committees in the past. Her candidates have used Herron, who is also a lawyer, to defend them against ethics and election law complaints.

Herron and Stern could not be reached for comment.

The hit piece against Trantalis appears to be partially paid for by Stern lobbying client Sheltair Aviation and businesses associated with the massive Bahia Mar project containing seven high-rise residences. Stern also lobbied for Bahia Mar.

Earlier committee money came from the real estate investor Austin Forman, lobbyists like William “Billy” Rubin and others, according to the most recent committee contributions on file with the state.

Those contributing to the committee behind the attacks on Trantalis are here (click to enlarge):



The Bahia Mar project recently passed the Fort Lauderdale commission by 3-2. Trantalis was a “no” vote.

The attack on Trantalis reminds me of another brutal Fort Lauderdale campaign in 1994 between Commissioner Cary Keno and challenger Ken Wolf, a marketing executive.

Like Bruce Roberts, Keno was a darling of the development industry. Like Bruce Roberts, Keno was on the ropes.

(A recent poll shared with indicates that Roberts is trailing badly.)

Ron Gunzburger authored some of Wolf’s campaign ads targeting Keno. Gunzburger is now Sheriff Scott Israel’s general counsel, but back then I wrote in the Sun-Sentinel that he was “the Darth Vadar of Broward politics.”

I described one Gunzburger mailing as showing “a picture of a costumed show girl and what appears to be a handwritten note from Keno thanking taxpayers for his Las Vegas vacation. Keno went to Nevada in 1991 to attend a National League of Cities convention.”

Gunzburger’s ads attacked with humor.

Keno’s campaign attacked with bigotry.

The Miami Herald wrote that Keno’s campaign “was clearly designed to exploit homophobia in key Republican precincts” against the openly gay Wolf.  Keno would list the cities where Wolf contributors lived, dropping in Key West. Keno’s literature said Wolf’s contributors had a “hidden agenda,” a dog whistle to homophobic voters.

Herald columnist Fred Grimm, who now writes for the Sun-Sentinel, noted that Wolf and Keno were both nasty campaigners and that made “either choice unpalatable.”

Keno won.

The Keno/Wolf race is a big indication of how much Fort Lauderdale has changed since 1994.

I wrote earlier this week: “Nobody would use a homophobic campaign today in Fort Lauderdale and hope to win.”  That was before the latest Roberts piece hit on Wednesday.

Dean Trantalis is gay. In the opinion of some readers, the Wednesday piece by Roberts campaign is homophobic by portraying Trantalis as heavily roughed caricature with deep red lipstick.

I have confidence in Fort Lauderdale voter and I hope it is not misplaced. Will homophobic tactics won’t work today.


The alleged homophobic picture in the lower right hand of this Trantalis piece.


It just proves that venomous and often false attacks are still the weapon of choice by the win-at-any-cost developers and lobbyists.

Trantalis is the victim today. In the next two weeks it may be somebody else’s turn in the barrel.




33 Responses to “Fort Lauderdale’s Long History Of Gutter Politics”

  1. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    I say bring it on Judy.She knows Bruce Roberts is doing poorly.She knew this months ago.Next will be Charlotte(thats ok Charlotte let them,you will play dirtier,and you won.t have to lift a finger).Play dirty Judy.You can see she is desperate.My advice to Trantalis.Keep smiling.Wear the flag on your lapel.Go easy with the hair dye.Sport a tan.Let the “gay New Yorkers”work their magic($)and keep pounding the issues.Homeless.Sewer ruptures.Over development.Charlotte get out there.Your picking up traction.You are resonating(finally).Lets roll..

  2. Jean Churcherilla says:

    Take back our city! Reject candidates who employ these tactics. Hold candidates accountable for tactics and source of funds spent on their behalf.

  3. JSS says:

    Instead of Bruce trashing Dean, why doesn’t he fess up and tell people that he’s all about special interest and not the every day people?

    Example: When the penny sales tax was on the ballot, you remember, the 1/2 cent – 1/2 cent split?

    Bruce told people at a gathering that there would be an oversight board. When questioned if any “average, every day tax paying citizen” would be on it, there was a NO and proceeded to tell about all the Who’s Who former’s of the county.

    He came across very annoyed being told that isn’t a good faith move to the people and it tells them there is something to hide.

    Don’t ever underestimate the power of us little people, Bruce. Your tax didn’t pass, did it Bruce? Our voices can be heard loud and clear.

    If this is the type of man you want as mayor of your city, shame on you. It’s time to put someone in the Mayors seat who will look out for ALL people and not just the ones with big bucks. It’s ruining our city and our country.

    Dean has proven himself to many. Bruce can put all the propaganda out he wants.

    Like your tax request, Bruce, your Mayoral candidacy will go the same route: In print only – and that’s where the “elitist” buck will stop.

  4. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    I stated before this race is between Rodstrom and Trantalis.Big developers can give Bruce Roberts all the money they want(via through Judy Stern(.However,they and they alone will not decide this mayoral election.I blame her(stern) and city manager Lee Feldman for Roberts demise(yes).Feldman realizes(come on Lee) that if Bruce does not prevail he goes packing right along with Bruce after the election(elections have consequences).Also Stern realizes if Roberts loses will make it very difficult to retain clients esp.if Rodstrom gets it(she can.t stand u either-i stated before this falling out would not be a good thing for either of them).So here we are in the 11th hour.What does Judy do,i will tell you start with the motto get nasty,play dirty,throw as.much crap as possible on the wall and see what sticks.Not much judging how badly Roberts is doing.Don.t get me wrong if it was up to the whos who he would be a shoe in.Again,those that make money off the city will tell u(Stern esp.) will state bs.Robert Bruce is in the lead and has nothing to worry about.Like hell..

  5. Hate crime? says:

    Let me see…a gay man, on a theater stage with a red velvet curtain, with one of the images having red lipstick and red makeup on cheeks… and a slogan “Dean Trantalis, Not Right for Fort Lauderdale” with “Not Right” underlined.
    This certainly is homophobic and a complaint should be made to the county human rights board.


    I saw this piece described here after I posted the above. I am removing my sentence that Roberts hasn’t stooped to homophobic attacks.

  6. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Buddy.My mole just called.Yes i have sources at county.Here we go.

    Trantalis 39%.Roberts 29% Rodstrom 20%.

    This tells me like i have been stating this goes to March.My sources never lie to me.This also tells me the 20% Rodstrom receives goes to Dean.

    Hence Dean wins.

    Judy Stern received same info(she has moles to).Now u see the negative ads she is running.She is running scared..As she should be.These figutes sre the tabuations from the absentee returns.I told the mole u lucky i like u cause i think she could be not only lose her job but subject to arrest.Sterns mole same thing.Say one thing she got connentions(Stern) at county.So do i honey bunny…Also very,very dismal turnout(voters) so to number of absentee ballots.Shame.Like 6% of Ft.lau voters.Shocking that the ft.lau residents don.t give a damn.


    I’ve seen the same survey.

    Remember again my caveat: Pinpointing the right voters to survey in such an unusual election — it is being held in mid-January rather than the tradition time for the city election of February or March — is very hard. Also, I have not seen the methodology or the questions in this poll. I question its validity until that is shared with me.

    On the other hand, this survey mirrors in many ways the results of a previous poll that was shared with me. It was done by a different pollster who uses valid methods.

    Also one needs to remember that surveys are a snapshot in time. At best, they are only accurate on the days they were taken, not on Election Day.

  7. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    If u do the math Buddy that means 12 % undecided.Cha needs that 12 %.That 12 % are your Black voters.Rodstrom gets them she knocks out Roberts.I stand corrected.That 12 % will decide who goes home on the 16th.Rodstrom needs that 12%.Stern thinks Bruce will get that 12 %.No way will the Blacks vote for Roberts(cop).Nor will they vote for Trantalis(gay).If Rodstom hustles she goes to March…

  8. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Word has it that allegedly that Judy Sterns mole in the SOE Fred Bellis.In all fairness Dr.Snipes knows nothing about this.39.29.20.Maybe one of those %numbers if substantiated(leak bellis)is the numver of jail both Bellus and Stern will get in the big house.Me im just the messenger.Care to investigate Atty.Satz..

  9. John Henry says:

    Horrible, Horrible choice of candidates this election cycle. Regardless of who is elected the City is pretty much screwed.

  10. Developers Foe says:

    Surprised it was not paid for by all of Judy Stern’s Lobbying Clients, with Roberts and most of the commission candidates Judy Stern will run city hall, we must stop her and vote against anyone she is even remotely associated with

  11. Irony of ironies says:

    Do you know how many votes are swayed in Fort Lauderdale by the involvement of Judy Stern with a particular candidate. 50, maybe 100. She makes great fodder for blogs and twitter but the real voters don’t know and don’t care.

    Judy still has not figured out that branding an opponent a lobbyist has not worked in years. Again, no one cares about a candidate who is a lobbyist. This worked once many years ago when Keechl painted Jim Scott a lobbyist and worked for LaMarca against Keechl 4 years later. Has not worked since.

    Even better, the Rodstroms and Dean can whine today about Stern, but the way she played didn’t upset them when she was working for them over the years.

  12. Political Campaign Pro says:

    I am calling BS on that poll. I find any poll of a local election that has 89% of the vote decided to be questionable at best.

    Also, no way that Roberts would be attacking Dean the way he is if that poll was correct. If Roberts was safely in second place he would save the attacks until after Jan. 16th. The only way those attacks make sense is if Dean is in first, Charlotte is in second, and Roberts is in last place desperate to make the runoff.

    The only other possibility is that Roberts is trying to keep Dean under 50%, but Dean isn’t well known enough, isn’t well funded enough, and hasn’t been running long enough to come close to winning the race outright in January.

  13. Roberts, Duke, Sorensen, McKinzie = more lobbyists says:

    This tactic confirms Bruce Roberts is a soul-less shameful person. First he tried to advertise he was the champion of infrastructure repairs after ignoring it for 8 years, and now he is opposed to a gay candidate. Regardless of who put this mailer out – BRUCE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR IT. The campaign reports tell you everything you need to know about this election – want more development and lobbyists, vote for Roberts, Duke or Sorensen, and McKinzie.

  14. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    I stand corrected.My mole states yes Robert u r correct.Trantalis in the lead.(absentee ballots-counted so far).Judy Stern got same info which pisses me off.Your playing dirty.My mole is not Fred Bellis, but im hearing he.s Judy’s.These absentee ballots are all over the place at the SOE.Its a circus down there.This tells me that Trantalis is looking good.More absentee ballits requested in district 2(5000)than any other district.This tells me district 2 deciding this mayoral race.However there is the 12 % which you my Black voters.Trust me go with Rodstrom.You do this Trantalis and Rodstrom go to March.She will listen to you.Go w/Rodstrom.Fred Bellis if i can prove u gave Stern absentee ballot count you both go to jail..

  15. Not So Fast says:

    #7, Robert, the “blacks” in the NW have not forgotten Rodstrom’s husband’s animosity and ambivalence over the Sistrunk narrowing and more. I remember him saying that Sistrunk was a county road and was for moving traffic. He didn’t give a damn about the people, neither does his wife. They hated Carlton Moore.


    Charlotte’s husband is not Charlotte. It is an insult to the woman to allege that she will be a puppet of John Rodstrom, the former Fort Lauderdale commissioner and County Commissioner.

  16. Fred Bellis has leaked tallies in the past. says:

    In the past Fred Bellis has been known to leak absentee vote numbers before Election Day. Too bad this hasn’t been stopped.


    (1) Fred Bellis has been an upstanding professional in the decades I’ve known him.

    (2) The numbers of those voting absentee don’t have to be leaked. They are a public record, easily obtainable. In the last general election a running total was posted on the Supervisor website.

  17. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    No way Buddy.She has no right to those tabulations .Bellis told her vertabium the votes.No way should Bellis be giving her say how Johhny come lately voted.I thought who you vote for was confidential until election day.Besides those absentee ballots are all over tge SOE office.I consider them sacred.Im shocked.My mole tells me Bellis is Sterns mole.Some will say u r just as .#bad.BS.I can.t even vote first if all.Plus i am not a campaign manager.Stern is.Anyhow these stats(%) tell me Trantalis in the lead.Rodstrom needs that other missing %(12%) do the math.#16 well do u want a former top cop(remember the Raiders)or do u want a gay man.Your choice.And yes i agree Charlotte husband and Atty Grand Wizard Bill Scherer are her worst enemies time and time again.Mrs.Rodstrom needs to court u and others.She will give u what u want.Address your concerns.Your choice…


    I printed the absentee voting to date on my Twitter account @buddynevins. I did not get them from Judy Stern or Fred Bellis. They are publicly available. Here is what I wrote:

    As of 1/3 in FLL election: 2,698 cast ballots; 1,420 Ds; 845 Rs; 1,391 over 65; 306 under 44; 397 blacks; 105 Hispanics. Election Day 1/16

  18. Rico Petrocelli says:

    Buddy, thanks for defending Fred Bellis, who has served Broward County for decades. I have dealt with Fred thru elections for years, and Fred has been Professional every time.

    Its easy to hide behind anonymous posts, and if you have something to say, put your name to it…

    Rico Petrocelli
    Plantation Councilman 2005-2009

  19. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Also Buddy after the election they were posted.Bellis was wrong here.Then why didn.t he release the early absentee votes to media.No just to Judy Stern.Come on.

  20. Inquiring minds says:

    In the Last 20 minutes in the debate, Roberts said that when he was chief he was asked by the administration to do something illegal and he refused. What was that? Did he report the illegal request to the state attorney or the FDLE? If he was asked to do something by his boss that was illegal, did he have a duty to report it?
    In the debate, he said he did not want to get into an explanation right now, then when?

  21. Go Walsh says:

    …Robert Walsh did put his name on his posts critical of Bellis.

  22. Maureen Postalwitz says:

    The city paid $12 million (Sun-Sentinel Nov. 2, 2017) to haul sewage because of the current Commission’s failure to fix the infrastructure. Voters should remember that Bruce Roberts or Dean Trantalis

  23. Tell the Truth says:

    @20. Inquiring Minds – “In the Last 20 minutes in the debate, Roberts said that when he was chief he was asked by the administration to do something illegal and he refused. What was that? Did he report the illegal request to the state attorney or the FDLE? If he was asked to do something by his boss that was illegal, did he have a duty to report it?”

    So lets find out and ask Roberts and if he won’t disclose I will email George down at the city of Homestead FL where he has worked since 2008.

    In the debate, Roberts said he did not want to get into an explanation right now, then when?
    This last ditch ‘grasp at straws’ effort closing statement by Roberts was an attempt to demonstrate his being ethical in the face of George Gretsas getting ready to fire him (as the city manager is empowered to do).
    So a refresher and trip down memory lane circa 2008 – Is this what Roberts was referring to –
    “…Police Chief Bruce Roberts originally recommended a one-day suspension, then later a firing and then even later a four-day suspension….”
    Or maybe this
    “…Roberts and Gretsas weren’t great pals. Notably, Gretsas hired a consultant who in 2005 said crime was going up because of poor management at the police department, not lack of resources as Roberts maintained. Then Gretsas gave Roberts five days to come up with a plan to fix the crime problem. Roberts did so. The police department and city manager clashed over officer discipline and the union contract, too. It came to its low point this year when the union gave a vote of no confidence in Gretsas. But Roberts demurred on the issue of Gretsas and whether ousting the manager was on his short-list if elected….”
    Or how about this –
    or maybe this
    How about none Bruce Roberts fabricating this ruse in that last ditch effort to salvage his poor standing in the upcoming election.
    And as to the developers donating to his mayor campaign, they were doing that leading up to his first run Against Christine Teel 2008-2009 to the tune of $81,000, with lots of cash from current and city employees, retired city employees and of course his FLPD employees (here is the refresher)
    One only has to read thru the easily discovered astute reporting by Sun Sentinel’s Brittany Wallman or Scott Wyman (they swapped reporting beats when city hall 7th and 8th floor couldn’t handle the scrutiny) to see thru Roberts pathetic attempt last night to distract from a nine year voting record that was always to the detriment and expense of city residents and taxpayers. Roberts allegiances have been and always will be with FLPD and city employees, few that actually live in the city and pay city taxes. This is not what Fort Lauderdale needs or wants as a mayor.

  24. 9 years of nothing says:

    This is Roberts MO, remember he put commissioner Christine Teel’s face on a piece of bologna, amongst other nasty mailings.
    While pulling in a pension and salary as commissioner, he let the infrastructure crumble, poop flow into the river, depleted the reserves and spent the infrastructure money on other things. Oh yeah, they know how to throw a party, the only problem is they are letting the taxpayers pay pay pay.
    He also has loves developers. And will vote for any and all condos

  25. Rico Petrocelli says:

    #21 Go Walsh. I was talking in general terms, not only on this site but others. When I see the authors name it adds credibility to the comments whether I agree or disagree, at least the author is willing to stand behind whatever he/she posts with a name….

    Rico Petrocelli
    Plantation Councilman 2005-2009

  26. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    I got to tell you the latest Trantalis smear ad where Dean is singing at the piano was hysterical.They(Stern) took my line with “my way Deano”.Oh they got again this minature version of Dean playing the piano.Great one.Inciedently,i find none of these smear ads homophobic or an insult to Trantalis sexuality.I don.t see it.Furthermore since by absentee ballots, mail in ballots same diffetence Dean is in the lead(yes).One issue that infuriated myself with Dean is when he stuck up for the rep from the Broward House,when Dean say on the board.Oh it was alleged that the rep had this minor living with him and it was reported that he allegedly molested the minor who in the aftermath committed suicide.Trantalis had stated publicly that since this Broward House rep wasn.t tried in a court of law he was innocent(sure no case since victim committed suicide)..Vut gold on that was when former county comm.stated unlesd you get rid of such stated person no more funding.Broward House removed him that day.Lesson here Dean we don.t stick up for didlers.

  27. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Dr.Snipes states absentee ballots(watch the wording) have not been tabulated(counted) until after election has closed.BUT they have been opened(yes).Fine they are not counted officially until election closes.Ok.ok.I get it.Sources telling me they have been opened However…

  28. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Winners Roberts McKinzie n Smith. Duke is ahead.

  29. @ count chocula says:

    The only way you would know Duke is ahead is if his wife is playing absentee fraud games again!

  30. Actual Political Campaign Pro says:

    “Political Campaign Pro” you missed the obvious third option for their bizarre tactics: the Roberts team doesn’t know what the heck they are doing. They are so busy trying to figure out what happened to their early lead they are completely off the rails.

  31. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Sun-Sentinel: Dean Trantalis Best Choice For Mayor

  32. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    As far as this newest attack on the police regarding this young black young man that works for the Trantalis camp.Its alleged that a concerned citizen called the police that someone was vandalizing or removing(same difference) Bruce Roberts campain signs.So this young man fit the description the police spotted this guy.They wanted to question him.He ran.Next day later etc the police spotted him and whats he do he runs.All he had to do was address the police concerns.So now because he is Black the police are racists and just want to harass him because for the sole purpose cause he works for the Trantalis campaign.Come on.If it was a Rodstrom campaign worker or Mckenzie worker they to would be questioned.Got nothing to hide than don.t run from the police..Total BS.Bruce Roberts give this not even a second thought.Let this be a lesson to some of u.You don.t remove,vandalize etc someone campaign signs..

  33. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Roberts can still win it

    Tim Smith wont spend the money he told his supporters he would, welched on a campaign h.q. and having real professional website separate from a personal one no one goes to that week after week he said ‘was coming’.

    Duke’s wife appeared to have scared of support which simply didnt turn out.

    And to be honest, I think except for Trantalis (who I do NOT support) all the the campaigns were uninspired, pathetic, lackluster, and the candidates boring beyond belief except for Bruce Roberts’ serious committments on specific issues.