Charlie Friedman, Broward Democratic pioneer, dies


Charlie Friedman, a Hollywood dentist who became one of Broward’s Democratic pioneers, died New Years Eve.

He was 81 and died from complications of a stroke.

Friedman rode the voter backlash against Watergate and the Democratic invasion from the Northeast in the 1970s to two Congressional nominations.

Friedman  shocked Broward’s Republican establishment in 1974 when his underfunded campaign almost toppled Republican Congressman J. Herbert Burke in the wake of Watergate.

It was a different, cheaper world of politics then.  Friedman spent only $14,843 to win the primary against Jack Milbery.

He was narrowly defeated by Burke.

Two years later he was back, but this time the primary was wild and woolly.

Democrats sensed the voters were sick of Republicans after the scandal of Watergate.

Broward Democrats also had the numbers on their side: Thousands of their fellow party members were retiring here.

They sensed blood in the water.

In addition to Friedman, I remember the Democratic candidates included John Lomelo, then mayor of Sunrise and later jailed for extortion; Anne Kolb, the former newspaper reporter and county commissioner who became the county’s leading environmentalist; Andy DeGraffenreidt, the first black Fort Lauderdale city commissioner; Art Barker, who was locally famed for running The Seed drug rehab clinic and Fred Lippman, a pharmacist and former Republican who later became a leader in the state Legislature and at Nova Southeastern University.

The primary was hard fought.

“Charlie, who was genuinely a very nice man, was uncomfortable with the nasty tone of the primary,” said one person involved.

Friedman won the primary. But he was knocked off by Burke in the general election after the vicious primary.

Burke lost his seat two years later after being caught drunk and disorderly in the Centerfold strip club in Dania Beach, an incident made famous by the Carl Hiaasen book “Strip Tease”.

The influence of Friedman cannot be overestimated.  He was one of the first candidates to vigorously challenge the Republicans who controlled politics in Broward in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s.

He later became Broward’s Democratic state committeeman.

Both his wife and son became active Democrats.

Sandra Friedman worked on campaigns and was later appointed to the Broward Housing Authority.

Son Bernie Friedman became president of the National Young Democrats. Today the lobbyist/lawyer remains a powerful fund raising and strategic force in county and state politics.

Below is the obituary his family submitted to

Dr. Charles Maurice Friedman, who was born on July 23, 1929, and passed away early Friday morning, will be greatly remembered as a compassionate, kind, loving person by his family and all those who were blessed to know him.

He is survived by the love of his life and wife of 56 years, Sandra; his sister, Elizabeth, and brother-in-law, Marvin; his children, Debbie and Ed, Bernie and Marta, and Jenny and Dan; and his grandchildren, Kara, Elana, Ben and Leah.

He was born in Newport, Rhode Island, to parents from Russia and grew up on Almy Street near the Touro Synagogue, where his grandfather was the cantor. His father was instrumental in making the Touro Synagogue a national historic site as the oldest continuous orthodox synagogue in the United States. This history shaped Charles’s Jewish identity and life-long commitment to the Jewish community.

As a teenager his father signed him up for a visit to Israel in 1953 with the organization Misrachi Hasair; on the trip he connected with relatives and cemented his desire to return to Israel many times.

In 1972 he felt that he had become too comfortable and, having done “all the things that were expected of [him] as a first generation American, decided to move his family to Israel for a year; the family first traveled through Eastern Europe, visiting synagogues and Jewish communities wherever they went.

He and Sandra were active in the Jewish Federation, traveled to Russia to meet with Jewish “Refusniks, and gave lectures to the Jewish community in south Florida about the Jews of Ethiopia.   In South Florida he was a devoted member of Young Israel and a part of the congregation’s growth and move to its current home.

Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a dentist and opened up his practice in Carol City in 1960.

His patients loved him. He had a reputation not only for being a stellar dentist but also for truly caring about his patients’ welfare and comfort—famous for his painless Novocain injections.

Throughout the years, he taught and listened to many associates and staff who are eternally grateful to him for his generosity and mentorship. Those who worked in his office will remember the camaraderie and kind working environment where everyone was valued and respected.

His office was the first racially integrated office in South Florida, and he believed in providing the best care to everyone, regardless of financial circumstances.

He also contributed to the dental field by inventing an ultrasonic dental cleaning machine, which shaped future dental technology.

After retiring from his practice, he continued to serve in the dental community as an adjunct professor at Nova South Eastern University, where he shared all that he learned throughout his career, including the importance of treating all patients with respect and dignity.

It is this concern for others and commitment to public service that led him to run for U.S. Congress in 1974 and 1976.

He believed that, in his own words, “people from all walks of life with different backgrounds should serve. Believing that he could make a difference, he took to the streets, waving at drivers passing by with the genuine, heartfelt message that “Charlie Friedman Cares About You; it was truly a grass-roots campaign where every handshake strengthened his personal commitment to do his best for the community and country.

His supporters would often enthusiastically chant, “Good Luck, Charlie! which became a mantra of his campaign and brought people together in a collective effort to send a non-politician to Washington who had their interests at heart.

When he didn’t win, his patients, who had become campaign volunteers, all too eagerly welcomed him back to his dental practice.

He always taught those around him not to sweat the small stuff—“Illegitimus non carrundum (don’t let the bastards get you down), he would say.

Charlie made friends wherever he went—on the tennis courts, at the grocery store, the garden nursery, and Delaware fish market.  He always kept busy pursuing his numerous interests and passions in life.

He had a gift for growing things, a proud green thumb—citrus fruit, tomatoes, and vegetables, which he generously shared with whomever crossed his path; as he would fondly reminisce, a high school aptitude test recommended that he become a farmer.

He always thought it was important to stay physically active and was an avid tennis player.   His family spent many hours at the local tennis courts where many friendships were nourished through healthy competition and his skill earned him the reputation of being “a human backboard.  His children and friends’ children eagerly waited for Charles to bring out the bucket of balls and give them pointers on their tennis strokes.

In 1967, he organized the first ProAm Tennis Tournament in Hollywood and played as the double’s partner of pro Rod Laver. He embraced what Florida had to offer and regularly took his family on fishing trips in the Keys; the captain of the boat was his patient who chummed the seas especially for Charlie, and they always came back home with over a hundred pounds of filleted fish.

Throughout his life, he imparted his values through his actions and has been an inspiration for many. During his final weeks, people from all walks of his life came to hold his hand, as he has been a friend and father-figure to so many.

In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center, c/o Charles Friedman Summer Camp Scholarship Fund, 5850 S. Pine Island Road, Davie FL 33328, (954) 434-0499.  The funeral will be held on Sunday, January 2, 2011, at 11:00 a.m. at the Levitt-Weinstein Memorial Chapel, 3201 NW 72nd Ave, in Hollywood, (800) 343-5400.  The family will be sitting shiva at the Friedman home all week with daily minyan at 5:30 p.m.

4 Responses to “Charlie Friedman, Broward Democratic pioneer, dies”

  1. Ron Gunzburger says:

    Charlie was truly a dedicated Democrat and a very decent human being. He will be missed.

  2. Mike Pratt says:

    My sincere sympathy to Sandra, Bernie and the entire family. Charlie brought so many gifts to my life. I will never forget him! Sent with love and remembrance. “Although it’s difficult today to see beyond the sorrow, may looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow”

  3. Mike says:

    Dr. Friedman was a caring dentist. He will be missed.

  4. Sue Gunzburger says:

    Losing a beloved husband and father is a tremendous loss whenever it occurs. Charlie was a fighter and stayed as long as he could, but his love for his family will live on forever. He is sleeping peacefully now. May Sandra and Bernie and the entire Friedman family find strength in the many memories he has left you.