Attitude Dancing

Wire editor and former club owner Andrew Delaplaine wants to be the next mayor of Miami Beach. Is this guy tilting at windmills?

The debtor-turned-candidate starts typing up some more slogans. "'I see a city government that's not facing any of the problems that face us,'" he recites. "'I'm taking the issues seriously. But I can't do anything without your vote on November 7.'"

Mattingly notes with approval: "The good part is you don't sound like a politician."

Delaplaine answers bluntly: "If I had been planning to be a politician, I wouldn't have led the kind of life I've led."

Morningstar cracks up with laughter when she hears this and says, "That's for bloody sure!"

As the first openly gay candidate in Miami Beach, a former nightclub owner, and a local newspaper editor for the past five years, Andrew Delaplaine has made a name for himself on South Beach. Of course that hardly guarantees an outpouring of support. And with his reputation, deserved or undeserved, as a heavy drinker, Delaplaine has his work cut out for him if he hopes to convince a majority of Miami Beach's 36,600 registered voters to support him in the nonpartisan race. (He's cut back sharply on his drinking since July -- well before he decided to run for office -- when he made a bet with a friend that he could stop drinking for a month. These days he drinks little or no alcohol.) Only Delaplaine has challenged incumbent Mayor Seymour Gelber.

Given the roasting he anticipated taking in the press, his decision to run was not considered lightly. As he recounts it, on the Wednesday after Labor Day he was strolling along Lincoln Road with his good friend Curtis DeWitz, weighing the pros and cons of making a bid. He'd half-jokingly spoken about running for mayor before, but this time he thought it might be worth taking the plunge. "It was an opportunity to do something," he says now. He told DeWitz that he'd do it, but only if the merchants he knew on Lincoln Road would support him. So he stopped into a few stores that night, asked if they'd back him for mayor, and when they told him they would, he filed for office the next day -- with $1200 given him by DeWitz and another friend.

But to have a chance at succeeding, he needs, for starters, to appeal to what might be considered his natural constituency: gays, small business owners, and disgruntled South Beach residents. Unfortunately for him, there's good reason to believe that not enough of them are registered to vote -- or will even bother going to the polls if they are. So Delaplaine and a handful of committed volunteers step up their efforts to raise money and register voters.

They go where the potential voters are. On South Beach that means places such as Glam Slam on Washington Avenue. For the gay-oriented Friday-night party called Icon, Delaplaine has dispatched perhaps his most loyal supporter, George Tamsitt, a close friend and former competing nightclub owner, to man a voter registration table. It's not the kind of place that, say, the League of Women Voters would choose for voter outreach. House music pounds away inside the club's ornate lobby, and a hefty black drag queen in a blonde wig hands out condoms to the men who enter. Tamsitt, thin, gray-haired, and rather frail-looking after a five-week hospital stay for a bout of Guillain-Barre Syndrome that initially had left him nearly paralyzed, has nonetheless managed to come out in the rain to do his stint for Delaplaine.

"He could change a lot of things. He doesn't owe anything to anybody," Tamsitt says while waiting patiently for would-be voters to drop by. "He's an incisive, intelligent renegade." Most of the crowd of about 100 ignores Tamsitt -- they seem more interested in flirting and drinking than in registering to vote. Every now and then someone wanders by, including Jeff McDonel, the club's production manager, who leans over to fill out a registration form. "We're tired of them ruining the city without listening to us," McDonel says. After about two hours at Glam Slam, Tamsitt has collected seventeen filled-out voter registration forms (from both straights and gays), a respectable if hardly overwhelming showing.

Delaplaine may ultimately win some gay votes through such efforts, but he hasn't been embraced by most gay political activists. Indeed the Dade Action PAC (Political Action Committee), the area's leading gay political group, has endorsed Gelber. "We choose the candidates that can best serve the gay and lesbian community," explains Eddie McIntyre, chairperson of the organization, "and Mayor Gelber has given us genuine support."

Delaplaine, pointing to the support of a few board members of the gay PAC, says he expects to win strong backing among individual gays. And yet the campaign, even granted its low-budget nature, doesn't seem to have galvanized many South Beach voters, gay or straight. In early October, for instance, a weekend effort by a few of Penrod's concession workers to register sunbathers turned into a desultory affair that produced not many more than a dozen new potential voters. By mid-October, however, Delaplaine and Morningstar make varying claims that their campaign has registered 500, 1000, and 1500 new voters, although they offer no evidence to back up those numbers.

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