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Nancy Smith

Don't Expect Annette Taddeo to Go Away

November 23, 2014 - 6:00pm

Stories -- unconfirmed, but they're certainly stronger than rumor -- are coming out of Miami that Annette Taddeo, Charlie Crist's pick for lieutenant governor, is revving up to make a run for another elected office.

It's just a question of which one.

Her party associates told me last week she wants to challenge Carlos Curbelo in 2016. Curbelo is the just-elected Republican congressman who defeated Joe Garcia in the Florida district that extends from Westchester to Key West.

Then, over the weekend, The Miami Herald reported Taddeo is "in the mix" to run for mayor of Miami-Dade County.

She could be, I suppose.Municipal politics in Miami-Dade is officially nonpartisan, but most local politicians' private party affiliations are well-known and local Democratic and Republican parties are getting more involved. Just this summer, the Miami-Dade Dems helped Daniella Levine Cava beat Republican Lynda Bell in a County Commission race and signaled they may back an opponent in 2016 against Republican Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

But, the Herald says there are 22 other political aspirants angling for Gimenez's job. Taddeo, 47, wouldn't just be getting into a "mix," she would be jumping into a school of sharks. Besides, she's always been more interested in national policy than local politics.

No, I think she fancies herself congresswoman material.

God knows why. The Sarah Palin Syndrome, perhaps?

After Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin lost the 2008 presidential race, Palin quit the governor's job in Alaska, wrote a book, and has been touring America whipping up her conservative fan base ever since. Those are the folks she listens to -- the only ones -- the cheering throngs who adore her. Now she has a website exploring her presidential prospects for 2016.

That's the gist of the Sarah Palin Syndrome: Palin came to believe her own hype from 2008 and fell in love with herself.

It looks like Taddeo has done the same thing. Charlie Crist chose her in July to be his Democratic gubernatorial running mate -- a local party boss credited with whipping the Miami-Dade Dems into shape, but otherwise with no more credentials than her ability to raise money, her gender and her Hispanic heritage. (And, of course, the party owed her one. She stepped aside to let Allison Tant chair the state party.)

Taddeo was the recipient of lavish endorsements written by party flacks to advance Crist's likability -- but you can picture her reading them, can't you? They were about her, about her qualities as "a working mom" and "small-business owner," about the diversity she would bring to the Capitol, about in what high regard she's held in South Florida and with few exceptions, not much of it was challenged by an adoring Florida press.

All that attention. All the cameras trained on her. Easy for Taddeo to fall victim to the Sarah Palin Syndrome.

But, besides their politics, the difference between Palin and Taddeo is stark: Palin was an officeholder. A real one. She had won an election. She was governor of a state first.

Taddeo hasn't shown she can win anything. She tried three times but has never won elected office.

She ran for Congress in 2008 against U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and lost. Nevertheless, the Crist team boasted,In 2008, she was the Democratic nominee for Congress in South Florida's 18th District, receiving more votes than any other Democrat who's run in that district." But Taddeo managed to get 41 percent in a good year for Democrats. Barack Obama pulled 51 percent in that district in the same election.

She ran for county commission in District 8 and lost in the primary, coming in third -- third -- behind former Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell and former Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn.

And now she lost with Crist. The most telling fact in the Crist-Taddeo loss is that she failed to do the one thing a lieutenant governor pick is supposed to do -- enhance the ticket in her own district. Win her own district. OK, the Republicans didn't win Miami-Dade County, Crist and Taddeo did. But, as political writer Jeff Henderson said here in Sunshine State News, "... She was supposed to boost Crist in South Florida. That simply did not happen as Democratic turnout simply sputtered in Miami and Broward County. Despite having been the boss of Miami-Dade Democrats, Taddeo failed in her own backyard. Crist made a miscalculation in adding her to the ticket."

I admit, I never thought the state press really scrutinized Taddeo, or how she was running the Miami-Dade party. And in July I wrote about537 Consulting LLC,the shell company she formed with Executive Director Juan Cuba to hide that her office had been paying employees as independent contractors -- not as full staffers -- for a long time. See the story here.

The question still is, are the stories about Taddeo correct? Is this a woman voters, even the members of her own party who know her best, want to vote for? Do they even feel a connection to her? Some have said no, that Taddeo doesn't know the value of a dollar, spends "like the doctor's wife she is," prefers the life of a socialite to talking with, or identifying with, the concerns of voters.

"Annette isn't another Sarah Palin," one member of her group told me. "She's a female Charlie Crist. A political opportunist who envies Charlie. She wants to be a career politician like Charlie. I'm not sure it's entirely for the right reasons."

And Farid Khavari, a South Florida registered Democrat who ran for governor as an independent, had seen and heard enough of Taddeo to know "she makes Sarah Palin look like Albert Einstein. ... Try to find out from this woman what plan she has for the office she's seeking. ... And good luck on that."

State Sen. Dwight Bullard has Taddeo's old job aschairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, and by all accounts, he's doing an excellent job.

But let's keep an eye on Annette Taddeo -- a prominent Democrat in her own mind, anyway. Let's see where she goes next.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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