The Case of the Invisible Candidate

, The 107th District state House race provides a mystery worthy of Dashiell Hammett

One meeting and two accounts that were as disconcertingly divergent as a thunderstorm on a sunny day.

Meanwhile Isaac Klayman was coming into slightly better focus. A source who claimed to be acquainted with Klayman's run suggested that a set of written questions be faxed to the candidate via PR consultant Randall Hilliard. Could it be that Hilliard A who worked as a paid advisor to Gutman during his 1990 state House race and who was hired by millionaire Jonathan Tisch, CEO of the Loews Hotel firm, to lobby the City of Miami Beach for a convention hotel agreement -- had taken on Isaac Klayman as a client?

Hilliard declined to comment about his role in the Klayman effort. But the faxed questions were answered in writing and they showed a remarkably shrewd grasp of populist political rhetoric. Asked about his political experience, Klayman replied: "I have never run for political office nor have I been involved in traditional party politics. The only experience I have is working with people to achieve results. In my opinion, this is the highest qualification to hold public office.... State government would work better if there were fewer lawyers and more people with backgrounds like mine."

He also offered a clear (albeit improbable) explanation for his virtually invisible campaign. He had not responded to any questions from endorsing organizations, he asserted, because "I am uninterested in being beholden to any special-interest group. I am going to take the message of my campaign directly to the special interest who matters the most -- people."

Hardly had the fax paper cooled when -- virtually out of the blue -- the brass ring swung into view. An intermediary arranged a phone interview with the elusive candidate himself.

Halting and heavily accented, his speech curiously lacked the crisp authority of his written replies to questions. But speak he did. Why is he running for office? "I've always been a service type of people; this would be a good position to do some good," he said.

He was less articulate when asked about the "tourism activities" he had listed on campaign-filing documents: "We help the tourists coming here, a lot of promotions...." And his clients? "A number of hotels.... We helped get the tourists."

When asked if he had any plans for campaigning he replied, "I've seen a certain number of people." He planned to make his first public appearance very soon, though he wouldn't say where.

The $2000 campaign loan was mentioned. (Failure by a candidate to report campaign contributions would constitute a misdemeanor criminal violation of Florida election law, according to a spokesman at the State Attorney's Office.) "It came out of the savings account A the cash in the bank," Klayman said. And why would he draw out such a large portion of the $2500 account he shared with his mother? "I think I would do a lot of good in the position. They say good things are worth the money."

Klayman denied ever meeting with Kiki Berger, Alberto Gutman, or any of their representatives. He said "a friend" recommended that he go to publicist Hilliard for assistance. And he dismissed allegations that he was put into the primary by Republicans: "I have no control over what people think or say.... If your name is on the public list, they'll attack you."

And finally Klayman addressed the burning issue of the day: Was he really a 300-pound Lubavitcher? Yes and no. His weight was steady A about 300 pounds A as was his attendance at the Shul of Bal Harbour. But he didn't consider himself to be a member of the Lubavitch religious community.

Perhaps his religious affiliation had a role in shaping his visionary platform, which voters would now be able to ponder as the September 8 primary approached. His main goal, Klayman stated, was to bring more "activities" to senior citizens. "Since the Beach has been taken over by young people it's very difficult for them," he said.

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