Broward Black Lawyers Meet To Discuss Running For Judge

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

 

Forget about Orange Is The New Black.

Black is the new black in Broward County judicial elections. At least that is what members of the TJ Reddick Bar Association hope.

Members of the group named for Florida’s first black circuit judge can read the numbers.

The August elections is when most judges are chosen. In Broward, that means Democratic voters dominate who gets elected to the bench.

Until recently, elderly Jews and Italians living in condominiums were the key to victory in the primary.  But these bloc voters have gone on to that voting precinct in the sky, or they have moved north to Boca Raton or Vero Beach.

Now blocs of blacks and younger white voters have moved in to replace the elders.

It’s a stunning change in a place where Thurgood Marshall would have had a very tough time becoming an elected judge a few years back!

The proof:

In 2016, voters elected two black judges who were running in their first campaigns — Kal Evans and Florence Taylor Barner. Those wins have prompted some African and Caribbean-American lawyers to rethink their careers.

 

Florence Taylor Barner

 

This new election reality filled a forum on judicial elections thrown by the TJ Reddick Bar and the Broward Bar last week.

The meeting featured four judges telling a standing room only audience very different stories of how they were elected. The lessons they had for the would-be candidates omitted some important details which I provided below:

• County Judge Robert “Bob” Diaz said he was so poor that he couldn’t afford the filing fee of roughly $5,000 or so in his first race in 1992. So he borrowed from a credit union. The lesson: Do not to be deterred by a lack of money.

The judge didn’t mention that he was an assistant public defender at the time, an era when Public Defender Al Schreiber’s political machine could sway elections.

Schreiber could raise money and he controlled a bloc of votes through his office. He also could supply volunteers from his office to work on campaigns.

Outside of big condo bosses who were Scheirber’s friends, nobody controlled more potential votes than Big Al…especially in judicial elections.

Regardless of any help he received, Diaz enjoyed a stupendous victory.  He beat two candidates, one with a Jewish name at a time when being Jewish was thought to be a sure way to victory. He won in an era when his Spanish-sounding name was thought to be a detriment. And Diaz won with a huge margin of 93,031 votes – a record that stood until recently.

Circuit Judge John Bowman said he became a judge in 2002 by entrusting campaign tactics to his campaign manager, the legendary late Tony “Tony G” Gargiulo.

Bowman’s initial campaign emphasized his Broward roots, something I can attest to. I worked for Bowman’s father, Barc Bowman, who was an editor at the Fort Lauderdale News at one time.

What Bowman didn’t say was that honest, straight shooting campaign managers like Tony G are harder to find today.

Circuit Judge Andrea Ruth Gundersen was a unique voice because she lost a 2014 race and returned two years later to win.  She told the audience that the grass roots organization that she developed after her loss was the key to victory.

Gundersen said that she proved candidates don’t need to spend a fortune for campaign consulting and advertising if they have a good ground game.

 

Andrea Ruth Gundersen

 

What she was too polite to say: Her victory was a stupendous upset.

Gundersen crushed the overwhelming favorite Lea Krauss.

An attractive qualified candidate with a base in the LGBT community, Krauss had professional management from veterans of the Obama campaign. She spent six times as much as Gundersen, including over $200,000 on mail alone.

And Gundersen? She spent a few thousand to pay a grass roots strategist from Lauderdale Lakes who presumably helped her in the black community, among other places.

• County Judge Florence Taylor Barner also said she won as a grass roots candidate.

She had some steller advice, such as make every member of your campaign team read the rules of judicial ethics of the Florida Supreme Court, which strictly govern campaigns for judge. Barner may have been a first-time candidate, but she knew that loose-lipped campaign volunteers can get a judicial candidate in trouble.

A mother of two pre-school children when she ran, Barner also urged candidates to get the support of their families before running because they will have to help in the campaign, too.

What Barnes was too modest to say: She proved to be one of the best candidates for judge I’ve ever seen run in Broward, which is saying a lot since I’ve been around campaigns for decades.

She overflows with personality.

In addition, she was qualified despite her young age with experience as a prosecutor and civil court. Every person who met her that I talked to – including hardened political insiders – were immensely impressed.

If she is half as good a judge as candidate, Broward will be well served for years.

 

How To Hire A Consultant

 

My advice is in the form of a warning.

There are charlatans in Broward who call themselves “campaign managers” or “political consultants.”

Although there are a lot of very good campaign strategists, the field also is filled with phonies who make extravagant claims and are only interested in lining their pockets.

Some “consultants” have done time in jail, while others have a string of ethics complaints.

Others are control freaks, who want to manage every word that the candidate utters. Candidates should remember that you are hiring a partner, not a boss.

Get “consultants” to tell you about their losses because all of them, ALL OF THEM, have lost plenty of big races. Do they make excuses or do they take responsibility for the mistakes?

Handle finding a campaign consultant like you studied for the Florida Bar exam.  Study. Study. Study.

Before you entrust your career and money to a stranger, it would be a good idea to hire a professional to do a complete background check on any consultant. Then see if you want them on your team.

Because in the end, it is the candidate’s name on the ballot. It is the candidate’s reputation at stake.

The candidate must live with any loss.

And the consultant?

They just cash their checks and go on to the next election.

 

 



15 Responses to “Broward Black Lawyers Meet To Discuss Running For Judge”

  1. Thomas Wein says:

    Thank you for the good things you say about Ms. Taylor Barner. She is a wonderful judge and person.

  2. Sober as a Judge says:

    Judges cannot campaign in any traditional sense because of Florida’s judicial ethics rules.

    As a result they can’t tell you what party they belong to or what leanings they have on issues. In other states where judges run on a partisan basis, they have more flexibility to campaign. Not in Florida. So electing a judge involves a lot of guessing.

    Judge candidates campaigns are generally limited to talk about their backgrounds but that’s boring.

    This is why having a good “judge name” helps tremendously.

    Names are the number one asset any Florida judge candidate has and they don’t earn it they’re born with it. If their name sounds like one voters associate with being a judge, that’s a strong advantage in a Florida judge race.

    Just look at the names we have now. Bob Diaz works for same way that Bob Martinez did — people like folks named Bob.

    In fact anything Robert works. Diaz is a great judge with a solid reputation. It matters not. We like Bob and if his name was Pedro Diaz the sad reality is he’d have a harder time getting elected.

    Stephen also works but not as well as Steven. Nobody knows why. It just doesn’t.

    Shapiro works if you’re running for judge. Johnson works. Florence Taylor Barner is a great name for a judge and so is Tim Bailey. We just like those names.

    This is not to say that they aren’t terrific lawyers, most are.

    Simply, you can be the very best lawyer around but if your name is Petunia Buttonhole, or Garry Gordo you’re not going to win. In fact, Gary Gordo would have a better chance, that second “r” being “annoying.” In fact, just change your name to Gary G. Gordon and you’re in much better shape.

    For sure, Garry and Petunia are not going to beat Marty Markowitz, Patrick Williams, Stephen Johnson, or Samuel Robinson. Even if they’re lousy lawyers, those challengers will win.

    It just comes down to what impression the name leaves on you, because the name is really all you have to work with. It is the very least important factor in electing a judge. Yet that’s what gets judges elected in Florida.

    How stupid a system is that?

    This is why judges should be merit appointed and not elected. We cheat ourselves by refusing to act on that reality. No process is perfect and nothing humans do is devoid of politics. But merit selection has got to be better than what we have now, much better. That or let judges campaign so we really know who we’re voting for.

  3. Ron Gunzburger says:

    I agree with you about asking potential campaign consultants to discuss a losing race they did, but not at all for the reason you give. The question you want to ask is: Tell me about the losing race you ran that you are most proud of. A good consultant — even a great consultant — can only move a bad, weak or underfunded candidate so far. The best consultants can usually move a candidate up 20 or so points. If you start at 5%, that still doesn’t get you to victory. If you start at 25%, it’s a long shot but still do-able. Like the fisherman telling “the one that got away” story, a good campaign manager can answer this question — and it will give you a good measure of what the person is like personality-wise.

    And, FYI, a consultant that cannot name any losing race they did is either (a) lying or (b) worse, only takes safe races and has no experience in tough contests.

    Finally, some free advice from a semi-retired (I only do Sheriff Israel and Maryland Governor Hogan these days) consultant who ran 130+ races: very little you do in a judicial campaign matters, including starting early, having a good (or bad) consultant, mailing, covering polls, hitting every club meeting, being first alphabetically, etc. 99% of voters don’t care about judge races, don’t research the race, don’t remember who they met 19 times (you all blend together with your identical bland JQC-approved speeches). It really is totally luck, random whim. Plunk down your filing fee and campaign 24/7/365 … or go away on a 18 week safari in the weeks leading up to the election: your chances of winning are virtually identical. And don’t ever mortgage your house to pay for your run.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Judge Taylor Barner is amazing. A rare class act on and off the bench. So glad she won!

  5. Michael G, Ahearn, Esq says:

    Buddy

    Thank you for attending the forum. It was a great group of speakers and I was honored to be on the panel. It was unfortunate that Ms. Stern had to cancel off the panel at the last minute. Certainly the rest of us made up for it.

    I 100% agree with your suggestions when a potential judicial candidate is selecting a consultant. I would supplement your suggestions with the following;

    1) While researching losses is important, it is also important to know how many winning campaigns a consultant has had in the recent past. With the decline in the condo voting base and the continuing advent of technology in campaigns, it is important to hire a consultant who shown the ability to adapt to the times.

    2) When hiring a consultant, a potential judicial candidate should find out how many and what other types of races a consultant is involved in. For example, if a consultant is a lobbyist who is running candidates they may lobby later, the judicial candidate’s campaign may not take priority since they cant be lobbied later by that consultant.

    Buddy, as always, keep up the good work.

  6. Jenny Geracci says:

    Wow just so impressed with Andrea Gundersen. She ran a clean campaign and has the underground community backing her up. The truth is that she also had many in the LGBT community who privately backed her up. Gundersen was the true success story and a relief for many.

    Money does not equate success.

    Being an obnoxious and immature loudmouth will either make you lose the race or just scrape by with less than a 3% win.

    You also can’t discount the power of a good name and placement on the ballot.

  7. Watcher says:

    Many of the newly elected judges are great, but as noted above, luck has a LOT to do with it. In the General, the female name listed first won every judicial race with similar numbers.

  8. Rinse and repeat says:

    Ron Gunzburger: how is your friend Roger Stone? Honestly, knowing what we know about him now (as if there possibly could have been anything worse than we already knew) one must wonder why you and he Sheriff have not publicly proclaimed that you or your campaign will have nothing more to do with him.

  9. J.D. says:

    Agree all around its all on the history attached to the name and the sound. Voting for someone because of the family history in justice system is a problem because it causes us to lose out on many potentially great judges. Lets face it Broward justice is still a good old boys network of white men, good old boy white lawyers and judges and the women who do well have to play their game to a degree. Black lawyers, businesses, leaders need to really work together to get on the bench here its essential the people of Broward are represented by their peers not an out dated good old boy white network. The county itself is named after a racist, by the way I hope they did not move the statue of racist Napoleon Broward to the new court house. There was a petition online to remove it.

  10. Chaz Stevens, Still Retired says:

    @8

    Good or bad, Stone helped get Trump elected.

    Regale us, how have your efforts gone to date?

  11. Ha Ha Ha says:

    I’d like to see Roshawn Banks elected as a judge. Last time she ran, there was a very remarkable pattern of campaign contributions… the people donated to Roshawn’s campaign, and the judicial insider’s network donated to her opponent…

    And it’s time to update both the racist street names in Hollywood

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/hollywood/fl-street-name-kkk-founder-board-20160607-story.html

    and the name of the county!

  12. Campaign consultants says:

    Michael Ahearn
    David Brown
    Barry Harris
    Alain Jean
    Dan Lewis
    Barbara Mitchell
    Amy Rose
    Jack Schifrel
    Judy Stern
    Ashley Walker

    This is the hit list of people used in the last judicial election cycle. Some much better than others. For all the potential candidates out there, please do your research!

  13. David Mann says:

    Candidates, if the first thing a political consultant tells you is how much they get paid that’s NOT the person for you. A candidate better spend at least $.75 of every $1.00 on DIRECT VOTER CONTACT(DVC).Consultants are not DVC, though their work product (mailers,ads,etc) may be.
    If they’re willing to let you spend
    30-40% or more of your war chest on their fee then they care more about their checkbook then your election

  14. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    Black lawyers concerned . Tell you what these Black lawyers(your words ,not mine)shoul dbe concerned about is someone representing them if they live in Ft.Lau in Comm>MCkenzie district,when he doesn’t even live in that district(proven). These Black lawyers she be concerned that their neighbors etc in that district are being represented by someone who swears he lives inthat house. when in fact he doesn’t. My concern is when are the cuffs coming ASA Tim Donnely??????

  15. abraabracadabra says:

    It’s not about money, race or religion. It’s an alphabet game. Maybe in primaries/mid-term elections voters know who is the preferred candidate but in a general election when the masses come out the vast majority of voters don’t know who’s who so they check the first Box –

    B(Barner) beats S(Sokoloff)
    D(Duffy) beats R(Rifkin)
    G(Gundersen)beats K(Krauss)
    Check out the results and you’ll see!

    That’s the reason who comes in first in the primary doesn’t necessarily win the runoff.

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