The stunning takedown of Broward County's most powerful elected official was a victory whipped up in a cauldron of revenge.
Sheriff Al Lamberti had ticked off the wrong people, and his enemies said they saw to his defeat — and to the victory of challenger Scott Israel.
Ron Gunzburger, the son of a county commissioner, plied his political tricks against the sheriff to avenge his mother, who he said had been burned by Lamberti during her own campaign. He turned for whispers of advice to former Sheriff Ken Jenne, who was dethroned in a public corruption scandal that sent him to prison, and notorious dirty trickster Roger Stone, a former political operative for President Richard Nixon.
On the team helping were deputies who'd been fired or felt wronged under the sheriff's administration.
"That was ... probably the best example I've ever seen of cautioning someone to be careful of who you get on the wrong side of,'' Israel's campaign manager Amy Rose said.
The sheriff had made a fierce enemy in the Gunzburgers when Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger was running for re-election in 2010. Lamberti launched a corruption investigation into Gunzburger, grabbing headlines when she was in a tough election fight. He was looking into her late husband's business dealings with the county, which had occurred more than a decade prior.
Had that not happened, her son Ron Gunzburger said, he might only have taken Election Day off to campaign for Israel. Instead, he spent every ounce of energy away from work scheming on how to take the sheriff down. A friend of political operative Stone, Gunzburger said he tapped into Stone's expertise for advice from time to time.
Former Sheriff Jenne, who'd worked with Lamberti and was succeeded by him, wanted him to lose, Gunzburger said, and he offered advice and passed along tips.
"Obviously I'm a Democrat anyhow,'' he said, "but the bogus investigation of Mom, which was purely something he trumped up ... to hurt her during her campaign showed me such an abuse of power and an arrogance that it motivated me to say we need a change at BSO.''
Gunzburger, the chief strategist of Israel's campaign, admits he penned anonymous attack pieces about Lamberti that were emailed and published online. He didn't have to heed campaign finance rules, he said, because the material was on a blog, like a newspaper with "spin,'' and he said no costs were involved in sending them.
"When you have no money, you have to do guerilla tactics,'' Gunzburger said. "The hyperbole sometimes was a little colorful, but the substance I think was correct.''
Just an example of how utterly corrupt Broward is that Gunzburger openly talks about as Scott Israel's campaign manager how he did it with people that would give anyone pause being associated with in the first place. Welcome to the banana republic of Broward.