Here's a paragraph I never imagined writing: I've been getting e-mails the past month from political operatives in Puerto Rico asking for details on a First Avenue strip joint. It turns out the commonwealth's Democratic gubernatorial candidate is caught up in a scandal for making a purchase at the club 3,700 miles north, which his opponent - who fancies himself as U.S. vice-presidential material - calls a Seattle "brothel." With the democracy of Puerto Rico at stake, the operatives asked me to set the record straight.
Sometimes referred to by its former name - the Champ Arcade - the Showgirls club is part of the chain owned by Roger Forbes. It's just up First Ave from Pike Street, across from the Pike Place Market. You probably remember its old marquee slogan, "Live Girls."
Fortuno is making an issue out of a $47 purchase Garcia Padilla made at the club while in Seattle on an official state visit. But the Democrat says all he did was buy a gift for his wife, though he hasn't explained what it was.
Jose Garcia-Gomez, one of the Democrat's supporters, tells me Garcia Padilla "admitted to that [purchase], a statement that most Puerto Ricans see as nothing bad. However, [Fortuno's] statehood party has initiated another defamatory campaign claiming that he [the Democrat] has eliminated himself from his candidacy for such an 'immoral action.'"
Garcia-Gomez likens Fortuno to the job-slashing governors of Michigan and Wisconsin, saying "The first thing he did when he came to office was to fire 30,000 government employees. Indirectly, some 100,000 jobs were lost because construction went into a standstill. You can go around the island and see abandoned construction projects." Fortuño, seeking his second term, told his admirers that "one of the Republican candidates for the presidency of the USA would chose him as running mate - for Vice President," says Garcia-Gomez, who calls that Fortuno's "illusion."
But Fortuno's dish on Garcia Padilla has apparently been working, and the Democrat has been forced to sit down with Puerto Rico media and go over his Seattle visit. Here's one recent report, an English translation, from El Nuevo Dia:
Alejandro García Padilla revealed last night that, while in Seattle, Washington on an official trip in 2006, he visited an adult store or "sex shop" where he purchased a gift for his wife.
The gubernatorial candidate for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) rejected categorically that he visited a "strip club" located in the same building where he purchased the gift.
The former secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO) made these statements after the television program SuperXclusivo challenged him to explain whether he had paid $47.25 in a Seattle brothel.
-What were you doing in Seattle?
I was going to Seattle in 2006 to attend a convention that brings together consumer protection agencies. DACO of Puerto Rico was named best agency for the work I was doing.
-Who accompanied you on that trip?
I went alone.
-Tell me, how would you explain the gift?
After the convention ended, on my own personal free time I went to the tourist area, which was a few blocks from the hotel to buy some 'souvenirs', some gifts. I went to an adult gift shop and bought a present for my wife (Wilma Pastrana). It is a shame that the governor is desperately filtering a statement about my private credit card, a joint account I hold with my wife. I bought my wife a gift that cost 47 dollars.
-What gift did you buy?
A gift for my wife ... What you are suggesting or insinuating is wrong.
-Why did you pay with a credit card from your wife?
Because she had an Advantage card points. To accumulate points, it issued a card in my name to my wife's account. At that time, we had that card and another card. I paid with the joint account that I have with my wife. Imagine that! What would I be hiding then? The bill and statement was sent to Wilma.
-Are there further credit card charges, ones that are mentioned by the TV show?
I can assure you that there is nothing illegal on my credit card, there is nothing doubtful, or anything else. It has things a husband buys his wife. It is a gift to my wife with my private credit card. It is a shame that the governor is divulging information about my private credit card statement.
-Did you also visit adult stores during your official visit to Dubai?
No. Let me make this clear. The truth is that I went to a store (in Seattle) and bought a gift for my wife in the middle of tourist area during the day, because I remember it was after the convention ended.
For the record: Nude dancing was and is the house specialty at the Deja Vu, along with its adjoining video and sex-toy arcade. A brothel in the traditional sense it isn't, although sex isn't out of the question (clandestinely with a dancer, or with oneself). Forbes has told me, however, dancers who have sex with customers will be fired, the rule at all his clubs.
As I told the operatives, it was clearly possible for García Padilla to go into the club and, without entering the strip area, buy a gift for his wife. Then again, it was equally possible for him to go into the nudie section and, on his way out, buy his wife a gift as an excuse. Who knows?
The only real question may be whether Garcia Padilla has the female vote in Puerto Rico. It was nice he thought to buy his wife a gift. But - with her own credit card?