Broward Politics: Is Irish The New Jewish?






If a voter considered the experience of two Broward Circuit Court candidates, it would be a contest between a lifetime prosecutor and a lawyer who has handled many civil cases.

That’s not how Broward Circuit Court Group 15 will be won.

The campaign pitting longtime Miami-Dade homicide prosecutor Abbe Rifkin against veteran labor lawyer Barbara Duffy will be a name game.

The reason is lamentable but understandable: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. 

Every voter is focused on Clinton and Trump. It is the only politics they talk about. It is the only campaign they think about.

A down ballot judicial campaign will get little attention….from anybody. No amount of mail or other advertising will change that fact.

Ignoring low profile races for judge is nothing new.

In 2012, roughly one fourth of Broward voters did not even bother to vote in the three judicial races.

Now four years later, the situation is the same. Most who vote in the judicial races will choose a candidate with a name they find pleasant.  They will choose someone they can relate to. Someone with a name that sounds like a member of their family, church or ethnic group. Someone like them.

In the name game Duffy has an advantage, according to campaign consultant Mike Ahearn, who is advising her.

At one time a Jewish name on a Broward judicial ballot was a sure fire way to victory. Those days have passed like many of the Jewish condo seniors.

Ahearn calls Irish the new Jewish.

“Irish names do well in Broward County,” Ahearn said.



Michael Ahearn


Under his theory, there is virtually no bias against Irish candidates. Sadly some bias remains against blacks, Jews and Hispanics.

Ahearn points to the easy victories of three judicial candidates in the August primary – Barbara McCarthy, Michael Lynch and Kathleen McCarthy.

Not so fast.

The presidential ballot is different than any other voting scenario because of the added turnout.

The Broward turnout in the 2012 presidential election was 762,345 — roughly 67 percent.

The turnout in the August primary was 188,217 — around 16.6 percent.

Even with one fourth not going down ballot, that’s a lot of added voters expected to cast ballots in November. The primary has no correlation with the presidential general election.

Let’s go back to the last judicial campaigns on a presidential ballot.

The November 2012 lacked a candidate with a clearly Irish-sounding name. The two candidates with non-ethnic sounding names had split decisions – Robert Nichols lost, while Laura Marie Watson won.

It’s a mixed bag leaving no clue to how the Irish-sounding Duffy or the Jewish-sounding Rifkin will do in the election.

Voters who do educate themselves about the candidates will find that both have great experience, although in different arenas. Rifkin has a wealth of criminal experience, while Duffy has done a great deal of work in civil court.

Duffy, 50, largely represented working people who believed they were wronged. Many of these clients were municipal union members because she was a lawyer for the Police Benevolent Association and for AFSCME Hollywood unit.

Rifkin, 59, has been one of Miami-Dade’s top murder prosecutor for a generation. She is responsible for locking up some of the most dangerous bad guys in the state.

Since advertising for local candidates will have little effect in November, grass roots work could swing this race. On paper, Duffy seems to have an advantage.

She was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale. She graduated St. Thomas Aquinas High, a school with an active alumni group. Her law degree is from Nova, a Broward university with another active alumni association.

Plus, there are 2,000 police officers and 600 municipal workers Duffy represented for many years.

Rifkin has lived in Broward for roughly 35 years. She raised her children here. Plus, she received the endorsement of the Sun-Sentinel, the biggest Broward media outlet.

Bottom line: Both are great candidates with a lot of plusses.

A bettor on Duffy vs. Rifkin can expect even money.

This one is a tossup…despite the Irish name.



12 Responses to “Broward Politics: Is Irish The New Jewish?”

  1. Chris Boyce says:

    Does that mean no one will vote for Gundersen or Krauss for judge in Group 9 because their Jewish due to lack of a Wasp or Irish candidate ?

  2. zigy says:

    buddy Barbara also spent more than a few years as a very capable and good broward prosecutor. she is a bull dog in court, very effective.


    Barbara Duffy was an assistant state attorney for just over three years after college.

  3. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    ….I find this article inaccurate as Irish Americans are heavily intermarried. Mayor John Preston Seiler is German Protestant on the paternal side, Commissioner Bruce Roberts is Italian on the maternal side. Former Commissioner and Property Assessor Parish is Mrs. Cohen in real life….

    The comments just don’t apply today.


    The heritage doesn’t matter. Voters only see the name.

  4. Name Game says:

    Names aside, Duffy is the winner with a wider range of law experience and commitment to Broward Voters. How do you put a Dade lawyer in a Broward Judge seat? Duffy has experience in Criminal, Civil, Family, Labor and Probate Law. Rifkin is only practices in criminal law and ONLY in Dade. No challange on choice. Duffy is the smarter vote. Broward Born Broward Raised Broward Law.

  5. Michael G, Ahearn, Esq says:


    As always, thank you for the mention.

    After winning with Judge McCarthy and Michael Lynch in August, I assumed I was done for the year. While I was contacted by some of the remaining candidates or their surrogates for my help, I was truly honored when my friend Barbra Duffy asked me to come on board a couple of weeks ago.

    Ms. Duffy won the primary because her message resonated with the work a day voters in the primary. I joked her message was similar to that of Bernie Sanders. She was a straight shooter who came from humble beginnings with a willingness to call out flaws in the system. Now more than ever, this is what people are craving. Barbra presents herself as an everyday person, one who is not only an intelligent and successful lawyer. Additionally, she comes off as someone who can relate to the struggles of everyday people and the need to treat them with respect.

    I certainly respect and have nothing negative to say about the accomplishments of Abe Rifkin as a lifetime government attorney in Dade County.

    I believe the people of Broward are best served by someone who has represented Broward residents in the Broward County court system.

    While there may be a benefit to having an Irish name on the ballot it does not replace hard work, community and financial support. From working with Judge McCarthy and Michael Lynch how hard they worked every night for over a year, which served as the foundation for their resounding wins in August.

    I did find it ironic you mentioned Bob Nichols, since I worked for Judge Olga Levine when she won that race 4 years ago.

    In the end winning a judicial campaign whether in August or November, in a county this large, takes hard work, community/financial support and a some luck.

    For those you mentioned here, maybe a little luck of the Irish came into play, but there is no question all worked had to attain success.

  6. Legal Minds Ponder says:

    Quite possible one of the scariest photos you have ever posted Buddy.

    A judicial candidate’s judgement can be descerend by who they choose to run their campaigns. Anyone who would choose Ahearn to run their campaign demonstrates serious lack of judgement of character. If they can’t tell what a deplorable person this is how can I trust their judgement on the bench?

    Good attorneys get paid to be practice law, not consult on campaigns.

    Duffy made this choice easy for many of us now that Ahearn is on board.

  7. Jack Mahogoff says:

    Unfortunately Name Game and most people in Broward believe that a very qualified person should not be elected as a judge here in Broward County because they are a DADE lawyer (noting the all caps he used in his post). Such parochial politics are why we have the worst bench in the state. Almost all of our judges come from a fourth tier law school (Nova) instead of many better law schools. Then the mentality is you are a Broward lawyer or you can’t practice here. Ignorant! Until we lose that mentality, we will continue to be the legal laughingstock of the state.

  8. ELAW says:

    How many Judges has Ahearn help get elected or kept on the bench in the last 6 years?

    Ross, Levine, Merrigan, O’Connor, Lynch, McCarthy, Rothschild, Watson and Robinon. Plus School Board member Katie Leach. Throw in his work for Mayor Seiler.

    Let me guess, you were on the losing side of one or more of these races.

    He may be a jerk, no doubt. You can’t say he doesn’t win.

    ELAW, Everyone Loves a Winner.

  9. Charles King says:

    Big thanks to Buddy Nevins for illuminating who I and other solid citizens should be voting for or more precisely should be voting against for judge in this November race. First off anyone that would associate let alone hire Seiler sycophant Michael Ahearn is definitely not worthy for office, not even on the crooked Broward Bench. For the record I’m Irish and wouldn’t vote for these lucky charms clowns if a union card carrying Fort Lauderdale cop put a gun to my head.

  10. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    1. Seiler is a German name not Irish. So the argument only names.matter doesn’t apply here.
    2. Why everyone berates Mr Ahearn who as a lawyer has to have ethics is beyond me.

  11. Sam O'Sham says:

    Irish is the new Jewish? Maybe I should run for orifice?

  12. Oh says:

    Ahearn didn’t win these races. He is nothing
    more than a Bandwagon jumper.