The Old School of Power
The day begins early and ends late for Pat Tornillo. He rises at 5:30 a.m. to take his vigorous morning walk along Brickell Avenue -- his mind already alive with plans, for he has many jobs to do. Most mornings, he arranges a breakfast meeting, either at his office near Coral Way or at a restaurant close to his home.
He has been the driving force behind Dade's teachers union for the past 34 years, now holding two top leadership positions as executive vice president and chief contract negotiator for the United Teachers of Dade (UTD), which represents 20,000 union members, including teachers and paraprofessional staff. He also heads UTD's statewide affiliate, the Florida Education Association-United (FEA-United), the state's most powerful teachers union, and he sits on more than 25 boards and committees from here to Tallahassee that not only control schools but influence communities as well.
As the chief spokesman for educators in the nation's fourth-largest school district, he also plays a leading role across the country, heading up two committees for his national union affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers. In three decades, Tornillo has done more to shape Florida's schools than any other individual. Yet outside the halls of the state capitol or the chambers of the Dade school board, his activities remain virtually unknown.
Teachers elected him their leader in the early Sixties during a wave of national social and political activism that would shape his career. Recognizing early that teachers' success depended on decisions made by politicians, he has forged alliances with leaders of both political parties and has not been afraid to compromise when necessary. Still, he's known as a firm, almost unmovable advocate whose negotiating success has been based on the trust he has inspired among a wide group of political players. "Relationships are power," observes Tony Gentile, head of the Broward Teachers Union. "That's the key to Pat's longevity, and the key to his success. He's developed relationships."
Florida Launch vs. Atlanta Blaze
TicketsSat., Jun. 17, 7:00pm
NPC Southern States Bikini, Figure, Men's Physique
TicketsFri., Jul. 7, 6:00pm
NPC Southern States Bodybuilding Championships vs. NPC Southern States Fitness & Figure Championships
TicketsSat., Jul. 8, 6:00pm
Florida Launch vs. Chesapeake Bayhawks
TicketsSat., Jul. 15, 7:00pm
Apart from building such relationships, Tornillo's reputation for risk taking, deal making, and political maneuvering has kept the 71-year-old on top for decades, and has helped his union withstand the conservative forces that threaten teachers' paychecks and independence. As lead negotiator, he has continually won salaries topped only by those of teachers in New York City and Los Angeles. As a state legislative lobbyist, he has expanded the influence of teachers and whittled away management's hegemony. Every sitting school board member owes his or her position in part to Tornillo's support. From 1988 to 1994, 75 percent of UTD-endorsed candidates -- from Congress to Dade County Commission -- have won their races. The key to Tornillo's power: He is in a position to influence the votes of at least 100,000 union members in Dade.
For this amassing of union power, Dade's teachers pay Tornillo $186,262 in salary and benefits, including the permanent use of a two-story Brickell Avenue home. His annual raises are linked to the salary increases he secures for teachers, an average of five percent annually since 1990. Varying percentages of those salaries are returned to UTD in the form of membership dues, the most recent reporting of which listed a total $9.2 million. (United Teachers of Dade will not release its actual membership numbers, nor is it required to do so by law.) Teachers have also rewarded Tornillo with their loyalty -- returning him to office by majority vote at three-year intervals. He's been opposed only once in his career, and has expanded the full-time paid union staff from one person to fifty-five.
The union leader disarms his opponents by concentrating on common goals. For instance, Tornillo works with the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, a management group, on joint lobbying proposals at the state legislature. After opposing the charter-schools concept for two years, Tornillo invited its best-known proponent, Jeb Bush, to lunch and to speak at a teachers' conference this past spring. (Bush accepted the invitation, and Tornillo no longer makes public statements opposing charter schools, though he and his staff have worked to weaken charter-school legislation in Tallahassee.)
In meetings, Tornillo has perfected the art of defusing potential antagonisms, and he does so using nothing more than an engaging smile. After many long years spent campaigning for the same goals, he still maintains a remarkable sense of optimism, a lightness that balances his stubbornness as a negotiator. One example: He loves Christmas, and festoons his office and his home with decorations during the holidays. His computer screen-saver promotes the idea of the Christmas spirit all year long. "Both my wife and I are Christmas freaks," he acknowledges.
A family-oriented man, Tornillo plays the father to many of his employees. When a younger union staffer told him last year she was expecting a child out of wedlock, he vowed to support her no matter what she decided to do. On the infant's first Christmas, Tornillo and his wife Donna gave her a set of clothing. At home he cares for his 91-year-old mother Geraldine. Three of his five children have followed him into careers in child care or education.
Tornillo is also capable of unleashing tirades, sometimes at unexpected moments. Then, observers say, his face turns red and his language profane. He's been known to lose his temper at the merest slight to teachers. In 1993 he publicly scolded a deputy superintendent for failing to credit teachers for their donations to United Way. When the deputy protested, Tornillo wrote a letter to Superintendent Octavio Visiedo demanding that the deputy be demoted. Tornillo has also been known to use negative campaign ads to block the election of lawmakers whose policies he opposes.
A short, white-haired man whose compact body has recently broadened despite regular workouts in his back-yard swimming pool, Tornillo's endurance often outstrips many of his younger staff members'. His early-morning work schedule stretches into the evening, and about three times each week he holds dinner meetings. By the next morning he'll have loaded down his top officers with booklets and studies he's read late the previous night. "No one has his drive," says one union member. Adds Tornillo: "I've never needed more than six hours of sleep. Sleep robs you of life."
Tornillo's tenacity has led to recent clashes with some members of the executive board at FEA-United, where he has served as president since 1978. The board members, all presidents of their own union locals, have bristled under his centralized management. Disagreements this year, in fact, were spawned by their attempts to tweak the management structure in a way that would slightly reduce Tornillo's power. "Pat is very much the strong mayor," complains Broward union leader Tony Gentile. "There's a number of us who feel we pay the freight; we should have more of a voice in the operation of the state [union]."
So far the Nineties have not been particularly kind to the United Teachers of Dade. Membership has declined among young teachers (Tornillo has already instituted programs to boost their numbers); his influence over the legislature has waned as Republicans have replaced his Democratic allies. His perennial dream of merging with Florida's other teachers union (Florida Teaching Profession-National Education Association) seems to have stalled. Even his own mortality has become an issue. Across the state, underlings and allies are quietly wondering when he will retire and who will replace him. "Pat is the union and always has been the union," says long-time friend and former union staff member Yvonne Burkholz.
In fact, the union's fortunes have come to be so closely identified with Tornillo that many say he has allowed no room for someone to develop the negotiating skills to replace him. "No one gets to stay forever," comments veteran school board member Janet McAliley, who has clashed with Tornillo over the years. "I don't know how it ended up the way it has. It's not in the best interest of our employees. But we know him. We generally have good management-labor relations. He's strong enough to be able to press for what he wants. He's strong enough to take some risks."
Tornillo acknowledges that his succession is an issue, but he points out that UTD members continue to re-elect him. "How do you replace someone who has been there a long time and built up relationships and built up positions of power in both the legislature and locally?" he asks. "That's not easy. It will take some time for anyone who comes in to replace me. I hope I will be involved in that process and will have an opportunity to guide it -- not to choose my successor, because that person will have to run for office. That's the difficulty."
In 1994 a federal court ruled that the Dade County School Board should be expanded from seven to nine members, and that these members should be chosen from specific districts in order to provide minority neighborhoods an opportunity to elect one of their own. That change, the court ruled, was to take place this year.
For Tornillo the move represented a threat to his union's power, as new board members could upset the relationships he's built with an entrenched board whose members have almost always counted on his leadership. The move also threatened the stability of a school system already beset with problems -- comparatively low test scores, classroom violence, unbridled growth. "It has the potential to be divisive," Tornillo worries. "It has the potential of school board members only being concerned with their districts. It has the potential of them cutting deals with one another."
Tornillo began working behind the scenes two years ago in an effort to influence the outcome of the elections. He met with Dade's most powerful lawyers and business leaders. He ordered his staff to turn out as much of the union vote as possible and to enlist teachers' support for UTD-endorsed candidates in their neighborhoods, precincts, and at their polling places.
The results thus far have shown that at a time when most men are already retired, Tornillo still holds substantial power. All of the union-backed school board candidates garnered the highest number of votes in the recent primaries, and most are poised to win easily in the November general election. Tornillo's county commission and state legislative picks took first place as well. "I think we did succeed," Tornillo understates. "I think one of the biggest things that came out of this was the high involvement that we were able to generate from our members. We've had more teachers actively involved in this election than we've had in any other."
Tornillo inherited a taste for politics from his Italian-American mother, who was president of the Fifteenth Ward Clean Government Club, a center of Republican Party activity in his working-class Newark, New Jersey, neighborhood. As a young man he joined the navy, and served in the great South Pacific battles. He was training to invade Japan when the war ended.
In 1949 Tornillo completed teachers college in New Jersey using his GI Bill. Immediately after graduating he went to work for an advertising firm but loathed it, and in 1953 got a job teaching English in an all-black, inner-city Newark elementary school. "I had always had an innate, deep-down desire to be a teacher," he recalls.
When his two oldest children contracted rheumatic fever, family doctors told him to find a warmer climate -- either in Arizona or Florida -- for the children's health. The Tornillo family arrived in Florida in 1956 and he began teaching at Biscayne Gardens Elementary School in North Miami.
But the conservative Florida legislature did not adequately finance schools. Classrooms throughout the state lacked books, and school buildings had deteriorated badly. (Dade's schools were of a higher quality than those in the rest of the state, but they were still far from great.) Year after year the regional accreditation team that evaluated schools threatened to close underfinanced programs in rural districts. The schools were also segregated, and black students suffered under even poorer conditions.
Yet the world was on the brink of change -- the civil rights movement had begun in the Deep South and young teachers from the Northeast, people like Tornillo, wanted to become a part of it. Like many of his peers in Dade, he joined the Classroom Teachers Association (CTA), but believed it to be "a company union." Principals had a great deal of say over CTA's leadership, and its officers did not negotiate the teachers' contracts. Black teachers had their own, separate union.
Those issues would be important to Tornillo after he moved on to become a counselor at Carol City Junior High. His friends there persuaded him to run for CTA president in 1962. If elected, he promised, he would merge the segregated unions and would establish independence from school district administrators. He won.
The following year he faced a dilemma: The union's executive board wanted to hire him as a full-time executive director, which would compel him to leave the classroom. After deliberating for a time, Tornillo accepted the union job and ended his days as a teacher. "I did it because of the challenge," he recalls. "I thought it needed to be done. I also had confidence enough to know I could always go back [to teaching]."
In November 1963, Pres. John F. Kennedy invited young educators like Tornillo to the White House. He gave them a motivational speech about the importance of their jobs and encouraged them to improve their communities. He was killed shortly after. "His death had a profound impact on me," Tornillo says. "I felt he was the first person I could identify with. I took seriously his admonition, 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.'"
In the mid-Sixties, the region's accreditation committee closed the schools in Duval County. Teachers from all over the state demanded better funding, more books, more school repairs. In 1967 the teachers called on the legislature in groups and persuaded lawmakers to convene a special session on education and to pass the largest-ever increase in the education budget. But Gov. Claude Kirk threatened to veto the measure. Teachers throughout Florida, brimming with confidence following their legislative success, decided to take a radically unprecedented action: They would strike.
But in Miami, Tornillo disagreed. He wanted Kirk to have time to reconsider his threatened veto. And he worried that once teachers in North Florida handed in their resignation letters -- as the teachers had planned -- they'd lose their jobs forever. He voted against the strike, but his constituents voted to support it. So he put aside his own doubts and led the strike, which lasted three weeks. Local teachers gathered several times for rallies at Miami Marine Stadium, and Tornillo was there to boost their spirits and carry their message to the community at large.
The governor allowed the increased school budget to become law without his signature. It was to be the last time the state's teachers would walk out. Their new unity gave them unprecedented prominence. But prominence wasn't enough, for neither the UTD nor any Florida public employee had a legal right to bargain collectively for teachers' salaries and benefits. UTD had been able to negotiate contracts only when administrators had agreed to participate, and in 1973 management refused. Top administration negotiators simply walked away from the table. Tornillo launched a two-part attack.
He assigned former high school teacher Yvonne Burkholz the task of lobbying in Tallahassee for a law giving public employees bargaining rights. He assigned union lawyer Elizabeth du Fresne the job of suing the school board for acting in bad faith by abandoning the contract negotiations. Both efforts ultimately succeeded. "I got my directions in two words: 'Do it,'" Burkholz recalls. UTD pursued the lawsuit all the way to the state supreme court, which eventually ordered the school board to negotiate.
The success on both levels gave all public employees in the state the right to elect a representative to bargain for salaries and working conditions. It was one of Tornillo's greatest achievements, but it came with a compromise. Associated Industries of Florida, the state's powerful business lobby, agreed not to fight the bill only if Tornillo agreed not to oppose a "right to work" provision included in the bill that prevented unions from closing any workplace to nonunion workers.
At that time Dade's Classroom Teachers Association (CTA) was linked to the National Education Association, whose members considered it a professionals' organization rather than a union. But a small number of local teachers, many of whom had moved to Florida from the Northeast, had formed their own group, the Dade Federation of Teachers, and affiliated themselves with the national American Federation of Teachers, which was a member of the AFL-CIO. Tornillo came to believe that such linkage would grant teachers more power, and so he proposed to merge the CTA and the Dade Federation. But there was a problem: National Education Association bylaws prohibited any affiliation with labor unions such as the AFL-CIO. The membership, under Tornillo's influence, decided to merge the unions anyway, a move that divided educators throughout the state.
Teacher John Ryor of Tallahassee eventually headed the group that fought labor-union affiliation. "It became a contest," he recalls. "Tornillo became the titular leader of those who wanted AFL-CIO affiliation. There ensued a competition between those loyal to the National Education Association and those loyal to what Pat wanted."
In 1974 Tornillo and the union membership created the United Teachers of Dade, a new, labor-affiliated union. He and his officers also persuaded teachers in other counties to join Dade's members in forming a new, statewide group called FEA-United. Over time only about half the teachers' groups in the state aligned with FEA-United, but because it represents three of Florida's largest metropolitan areas, its clout is significant.
During the Eighties, public education in America came under intense scrutiny. The U.S. Department of Education in 1983 issued a report concluding that the nation's education system was failing to prepare students for college or the workplace. Tornillo headed a committee for the American Federation of Teachers charged with identifying the source of this failure and proposing solutions. The committee's report, released in Washington, D.C., in 1985, argued that teachers needed the support of the entire community if they were to succeed. Moreover, Tornillo's committee determined, key decisions about how schools should be run were best made locally, not by some distant state or federal bureaucracy. Later that year the Carnegie Forum released a widely publicized report that reached similar conclusions.
In Miami the union chief set about challenging the traditional dominion of principals and administrators. He wanted district administrators to allow local schools more autonomy in their operations, and he wanted principals to allow teachers a role in school management. With two national reports backing his assertions that teachers needed more power, Tornillo persuaded Superintendent Leonard Britton to grant them greater influence. In 1985 Tornillo and Britton negotiated the first contract requiring principals to share their authority with teachers. The next superintendent, Joseph A. Fernandez, wanted to do even more to help local communities design their schools the best way possible, a reform effort that eventually came to be known as school-based management. "We realized that if we wanted to make a difference in public schools, you weren't going to do it alone," Fernandez says today. "We had to bring as many people to the table as possible."
But no enlightened reform could solve the problems caused by Dade's burgeoning student population. The district literally could not build schools fast enough. Fernandez and Tornillo implored business leaders to donate space for new schools, and a few did. But that project helped only a small percentage of students. In 1988 administrators realized that somehow they had to find more money for school construction, the most likely method being a mammoth bond issue that would have to be approved by voters -- a risky proposition in this notoriously anti-tax state. Because state law prohibited the school district itself from promoting the bond idea in an advertising campaign, Fernandez turned to Tornillo for help. The UTD boss accepted the challenge and hired veteran political consultants Phil Hamersmith and Jacqueline Basha to mount a campaign that relied heavily on help from Dade's teachers. It was a remarkable success. The $900 million bond issue passed in March 1988.
The national recognition Dade schools garnered as a result of innovative reforms and the monumental construction program helped Fernandez take a step up to run New York City's public school district, the largest in the nation. It also eventually helped Tornillo persuade the legislature to incorporate into state law portions of Dade's school-based management plan.
But the ambitious plan to implement school-based management and allow local communities more say in the education process has worked only where principals have agreed to relinquish some of their authority. Student test scores remain below average, parents have not received the training that would allow them to make informed decisions about their children's schools, and civic leaders continue to fret about the quality of public education in Dade County.
"I've been its strongest advocate and its severest critic," Tornillo says of school-based management. "Principals have paid lip service to it and they don't really want parental involvement. They put up obstacles, and teachers get frustrated to the extent that it may get really laborious in terms of the amount of meetings, the amount of time spent. At the same time I don't think there are any alternatives, so you have to keep working at it. Once it is achieved and it's functioning, it is extremely difficult for anyone to get it off the track."
By the early Nineties, formidable political and economic changes had affected Florida and the nation. The labor movement nationally lost its impetus after a restructuring of the economy had deprived unionized factory workers of stable employment. Republicans who wanted to reduce the size and cost of government had a majority in Congress and asserted their influence over Florida's legislature.
At the same time, the state's population was aging; a growing number of retirees had no children in school and resented paying taxes for newfangled programs. After all, students had failed to master the basics -- employers complained that they could barely count change and they lacked acceptable reading skills. In Florida's classrooms, teachers had been saddled with children's grievous social problems -- broken homes, violence, pregnancy, drug use.
State revenue shortages in 1991 and 1992 intensified the fight for school funding. To forestall education budget cuts, Tornillo forged alliances with labor's natural opponents, the state's school superintendents and administrators. He charmed Republicans he could work with and used union staff and resources to oppose those he could not. State Republican Party chairman Tom Slade was a man Tornillo could work with. Both men had been appointed to the state's Tax and Budget Reform Commission in 1991, and they combined efforts to foil zealots from both the anti-tax and pro-tax camps. The two men vehemently disagreed about charter schools, merit pay for teachers, and provisions in employment contracts that Slade believed protected the jobs of bad teachers. But they became buddies anyway. "I cannot imagine anyone I would rather sit around and have a drink with than Tornillo," says Slade. "On the other hand, I can't think of anyone who I more strongly disagree with."
Another Republican, former state senator Dick Langley, alienated FEA-United by repeatedly sponsoring a bill to institute merit pay for public school teachers throughout the state. Langley, from Central Florida, was scheduled to assume the powerful role of Rules Committee chairman, but the union helped defeat him in 1992 by running television ads that linked him to a convicted child molester. He lost after three terms in office. "[Teachers] had phone banks locally and they had people show up at every meeting and talk about my marital history," Langley recalls. "They have always opposed me. I was on the school board before I went to the legislature, and I gave them a hard time."
When Florida Education Commissioner Betty Castor stepped down to become president of the University of South Florida, Tornillo personally led the fight against the man who sought to be elected her successor, Republican school administrator Frank Brogan. Having decided it was time to elect an African American to a state cabinet seat, and expressing disdain for Brogan, Tornillo supported former state representative Timothy "Doug" Jamerson, an ally in school reform. It was a miscalculation; Brogan easily won the statewide race. The battle against Brogan, however, did not stop with his election. Shortly after he took office, Tornillo filed an ethics complaint, alleging that Brogan improperly funneled state funds to his friends in the Florida Superintendents Association. The complaint was dismissed for lack of evidence.
Having lost the fight to oust or discredit Brogan, Tornillo changed his tactics. He held a press conference and offered friendship. Brogan responded by inviting Tornillo to a state cabinet meeting, lunch, and a private tete-a-tete.
A year ago Tornillo called a business meeting at Mario's Il Palio, the Italian restaurant near his Brickell Avenue home, where table 24 at the rear functions as a second office for the union boss. Three well-known political consultants attended: Eric "Ric" Sisser, Phil Hamersmith, and Jacqueline Basha. Sisser, who had lobbied for FEA-United in the Eighties, had already been working with Tornillo for more than a year in anticipation of this fall's school board elections, drumming up interest among Dade County's political and financial elite.
Tornillo wanted to identify a slate of candidates the union could work with, but candidates who could also win. And he was frank about his desire to block religious conservatives from dominating the board. His goals resonated with Hamersmith, who admired Tornillo's political instincts and knew that he would listen to advice and eschew unobtainable goals. That night Tornillo hired Hamersmith and Basha as campaign consultants. The four discussed available resources and divided up their tasks.
Sisser, who was donating his services, would hold fundraisers for individual candidates. He also would arrange key meetings between possible contributors and the candidates, as well as advise the school board hopefuls regarding which lunches and events to attend. Hamersmith and Basha would oversee the pollsters and give the candidates advice about direct-mail and television advertising. Tornillo would try to deliver the support of 100,000 labor union members in Miami, including some 19,000 teachers.
To that end Tornillo dispatched his top Dade lobbyist, Cindy Hall, president of Dade's AFL-CIO local, to meet with teachers. She showed a video reminding them that political leaders on the school board and in the Legislature controlled their paychecks. She carried voter registration forms to every meeting. And she planned a registration drive during new-teacher orientation in the fall and organized pre-election phone banks staffed by educators.
Tornillo and company did not officially select the union's candidates for endorsement, but by the time of the strategy meeting at Mario's Il Palio Tornillo had already spoken with many who were running. He told them they would have to collect ample funding on their own before they could hope for union support, which would include financial contributions and volunteers. He had questioned their political philosophies and their views on issues that affected teachers.
Among the candidates, Manty Sabates Morse soon emerged as a contender in District 6, where two traditionally strong incumbents -- Janet McAliley and Rosa Castro Feinberg -- both lived. Sisser was friendly with Sabates Morse's husband, State Rep. Luis Morse, and donated $500 to her campaign shortly after she filed for the race, in July of last year.
About the same time, Tornillo invited McAliley to lunch at Mario's Il Palio and offered her a candid analysis of her chances. As a liberal Anglo Democrat, McAliley had three strikes against her in the majority Hispanic district. "He said, 'We are going to pick our candidates now, and if you're not on the bandwagon, you're out of the running,'" she recalls. "I told him he'd look ridiculous." This past July she officially declined to run.
This past spring Tornillo secured Luis Morse's assistance in the legislature. Morse successfully sponsored a union-backed bill giving teachers -- not administrators -- the right to kick unruly students out of class, a powerful diminution of principals' authority in the classroom. In July a panel of union members from UTD and the AFL-CIO agreed to support Sabates Morse in the general election. By that time she had raised $76,000, and a handful of Republicans had declined to run against her. She faced no primary challenge.
The District 4 primary race in Hialeah proved more problematic. Hamersmith and Sisser recommended that the union back a candidate who could gather a consensus from the city's rival political factions. But no consensus candidate was to be found. "We came to the conclusion that whoever Raul Martinez wanted would win, so Ricky and myself, we went to visit Raul Martinez," Hamersmith says.
The mayor supported Republican Julio Robaina. So did the union. Robaina won a plurality of the votes, but by a small margin. The second-ranking candidate, Perla Tabares-Hantman, a member of the Florida Board of Regents, has the support of U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and Eduardo Padron, president of Miami-Dade Community College. "I think it's going to be a dog fight in the runoff," Tornillo predicts.
If District 4 presented complications, District 8 was downright scary for Tornillo. As the July filing deadline neared, no one seemed capable of beating Carlos Manrique, a religious conservative Tornillo feared could use Cuban radio to win the election. In neighboring District 5, another strident conservative, former Miami city commissioner Demetrio Perez, Jr., also would undoubtedly win, no matter who opposed him, according to the union's analysis.
Tornillo and crew decided they could not run a successful candidate against Perez, but they could defeat Manrique with the right person. "We sought out Renier Diaz de la Portilla," Hamersmith says. Brother Alex is a state representative and brother Miguel a popular county commissioner. "It doesn't take political consultants and Nostradamus to figure out this guy can do it."
The United Teachers of Dade scored five victories in the primaries, spent nearly $300,000, and suffered no losses. In addition to Diaz de la Portilla and Robaina, UTD-endorsed Democratic incumbent Frederica Wilson easily won re-election in District 1. In District 2, UTD-endorsed Solomon "Sol" Stinson conducted such an effective campaign that he easily polled the highest number of votes in his primary. And incumbent Democrat Betsy Kaplan trounced her lesser-known opponent in District 9. All union-backed candidates are now well positioned for the November general election.
The success of the union's favored candidates in this first-ever school board election by district could only enhance Tornillo's power within the UTD, and will make it that much more difficult to replace him when he retires, which he has promised to do in the year 2000.
But some observers believe that the expected results may not be that healthy for the schools or the UTD. For not only will Tornillo have ushered in a new school board, his activities will also have helped to attract hundreds of thousands of dollars from special interests. Manty Sabates Morse, for example, has collected thousands from developers and lawyers who could profit from her votes on the school board. Like the other new, Hispanic candidates endorsed by the UTD, Sabates Morse has never volunteered or otherwise worked in the school community. Each does, however, have some relationship with the county's various political dynasties. "When people come in who have never shown an interest in volunteering for schools and then they decide to break into politics this way, I'm disgusted," outgoing board member Janet McAliley fumes.
In response to such unabashed idealism, consultant Phil Hamersmith gives a philosophical shrug. "Politics is not the art of mysticism," he says. "It is a nitty-gritty, practical, businesslike world. There's no point in supporting someone who is ideologically perfect and winning zero. Your first and last priority is winning."
Pat Tornillo thoroughly understands that sentiment. He has been winning for more than 30 years. There's certainly no reason to stop now.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.