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Coffey, who was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District from 1993 to 1996 and also campaigned unsuccessfully for state Senate in 1992, laughs when asked about his political future. "I have absolutely no intention of running again for public office," he declares. Most politicos don't foresee a Coffey candidacy; his image still suffers from the episode that caused him to resign as U.S. Attorney, when he allegedly bit a topless dancer at a strip club. But Coffey has collected political chits, having worked on Carollo's vote-fraud campaign two years ago; represented the mayor in a dispute with the city commission during last year's recall effort; and most recently tried to mediate the dispute between Carollo and fired City Manager Donald Warshaw.
He has emerged less as a potential candidate than an insider with political clout; his services clearly will be in demand by high-profile types during and after campaigns. "It kind of makes him the go-to guy, like an F. Lee Bailey or Roy Black," Levy says.
It remains to be seen just how much of a sure thing Elian involvement is for vote-seekers. Some non-Cubans are enraged in the aftermath of the postraid riots and the ensuing shakeups at Dinner Key and within the Miami Police Department. Voter registration drives in the Anglo and black communities are under way. "I'm not so sure [the dream team's] political fortunes have risen significantly outside a narrow demographic," Schroth comments. "This is the most polarizing political issue I've seen in Dade County politics in fourteen years of polling. As a result for every vote you win from a Cuban American, you would be likely to lose among Anglos and blacks. In other words Kendall Coffey could probably be elected mayor of Little Havana, but he would have trouble expanding his base outside those borders."
"This was a cozy little campfire that everybody got around to get warm," adds lawyer Richard Sharpstein, who was briefly part of the legal team. "Then it turned into a forest fire and a lot of people got burned."