But some influential local Democrats are frankly hopeful that Coffey, counsel to the Dade Democratic Party for three years and an unsuccessful candidate in 1992 for a seat in the Florida legislature, will prevail. Coffey does have supporters within the U.S. Attorney's Office, but there is widespread concern that his lack of criminal and federal experience could prove disastrous in an office that prosecutes some 2000 cases annually. Coffey dismisses such fears. "In substance, the U.S. Attorney is the chief executive of a great and complex law firm," he observes. "There are probably 40 or more prosecutors in that office who can try complex drug cases. They don't need another lawyer whose background is drug cases. The issue is one of management and leadership."
The protracted selection process has made for some awkward interpersonal politics as well, in particular between Gregorie and Martinez, who are friends as well as former colleagues. "I wouldn't have applied without talking with Bobby myself," says Gregorie, who has long coveted the U.S. Attorney's job. "But a couple of weeks after the election, he called me up and invited me to lunch. He knew I was interested. And he knew that I knew the president, for what that's worth. He said, 'By all means, go ahead and apply.' He told me he was going to try to stay in, even though he's a Republican. He said, 'Well, Dick, if I don't get it, I sure hope you do.' And I feel the exact same way.