Former State Rep. Jack Tobin Dies


Former State Rep. Jack Tobin, the political strongman of Margate for a generation, died Tuesday night.

Tobin, 69, died from cancer at home.

Jack Tobin, when elected to the House, 1982

He was first elected to the Margate commission in 1979, one of the new wave of Jewish Democrats from New York City moving to the area and changing politics.

Three years later, Tobin won a House seat in a district redrawn to reflect the booming grown of northwest Broward.

In Tallahassee, Tobin became part a small group of Broward Democrats who controlled the Florida House for a decade or so. They were nicknamed “The Broward Mafia by the media because they exercised their power to bring money home.

Jack Tobin, with Broward State Reps. Anne MacKenzie (in pink) and Debbie Sanderson, 1990 (photo: State Library and Archives of Florida)

The Broward Mafia filled the county with Tallahassee money, paying for dozens of project which we depend upon today. They carved enough out of the state budget to build Interstate 595 along with Tri-Rail commuter train. The county’s colleges, state parks, schools and social services mushroomed.

Tobin helped with it all.

He never lost sight that he was elected again and again by elderly retirees. Specializing in legislation that affected these constituents, he brought home help for Meals on Wheels and Alzheimer care.

In 2002 long after he left the Legislature, Tobin was named to the Area Agency on Aging’s Hall of Fame for his work for Alzheimer’s patients.

Constantly rated by the media one of the most effective House members, he also dealt with statewide issues involving regulated professions. During his 16 years in the House, he was both the powerful chairman of the House Business & Professional Regulations Committee and its vice chairman.

From his committee perch, Tobin managed bills affecting huge economic interests.  Bills lived or died on his word. Thus he was constantly being romanced by lobbyists from big businesses like the telephone industry and rental car companies.

The rotund Tobin made no secret of his well-publicized habit of letting lobbyists treat him to lavish meals.  He often joked to reporters about how much scrimp and steak he could eat for free in those days before strict ethics laws.

He had one big setback: He was charged in 1984 with taking bribes on the Margate commission.   The charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

Tobin quit the House in 1998 which was two years after Republicans won a majority.  He sat out the legal two-year ban on lobbying before returning to Tallahassee part time in 2000 as a lobbyist.

During the years in Tallahassee he never lost his grip on Margate, where he had his home and office. Candidates sought out his advice, help and approval.  Businesses used him to get goodies from the Margate commission.

He remained the political power behind-the-scenes in Margate until his death.

24 Responses to “Former State Rep. Jack Tobin Dies”

  1. Sandy says:

    He was Mr. Margate. He will be missed. RIP, Jack.

  2. Alu supporter says:

    I don’t believe there will be another Broward Dem as strong and motivated as Jack. He will be eternally missed. R.I.P. Jack.

  3. Richard J. Kaplan says:

    I just had been with him 2 weeks ago in Tallahasse. It’s so sad. I knew some of the medical issues he faced, but he was confident the doctors would get a handle on it.

    He will be missed.

  4. Warren Meddoff says:

    Jack was a good guy and the best of example of a politician that worked for the good of his constituents and te betterment of the county. He will be missed.

  5. A Friend of J Tobin says:

    A great man! You’ll be missed by many, and your legend will remain!

  6. Le Peerman says:

    Margate lost a good man and I lost a good friend and teacher. I spent the last 7 years sitting next to Jack at the Commission meetings. Even when Jack and I were on opposite sides of an issue it was never personal and we were able to leave it in the chambers. Jack taught me alot about politics and people. Even tho he remained neutral in my election I could always talk to him and get his advice. I was so honored to have been able to see him in action in Tallahassee this session. I will miss him and Margate seems a little smaller today.
    Rest in peace my friend.

  7. Ben Graber says:

    Jack Tobin was always a gentleman. He was sincere, worked hard and was proud of his role as a state rep. He took care of his friends and family and represented his people well. He was a smart politician and had a great sense of humor.When you were with Jack and his good friend Fred Lippman, you rolled in laughter.As a fellow Clinton High School alumnus, he will be remembered in the High School history as a success.It was a pleasure to have known and worked with Jack. May G-d Bless him and his family. I send my regrets to his wife and children for their loss.He will be missed.

  8. Floridan says:

    Always accessable and always affable.

  9. Kathleen Daley Bochicchio says:

    Jack, you were a pleasure to work with and a great friend. We always said we’d get the gang back together and we will….RIP my friend. You’ll see us again!
    Thoughts and prayers are with your family.

  10. What? says:

    I am sure Jack Tobin was a fine public servant. Don’t have any reason to question it. However, I find it interesting that, being the great public servant that many say he was, eating a bunch of free meals from lobbyists didn’t prevent him from doing good. If that is the case, why is there so much focus on this kind of thing these days? Do we really think that free shrimp and steak make someone a tool for lobbyists? Just wondering.

  11. Frank Meiners says:

    I worked in Tallahassee with Jack for many years and he was always up front with you and kept his word. As a Committee Chairman, he was the best I ever knew. He could run a meeting and not waste any time, but every one felt fairly treated.

    I just hate to lose him – my sympathy to his family.

  12. Steven Feren says:

    As a “second generation” Broward legislator, with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Matt Meadows, and Mandy Dawson, we learned our jobs and responsibilities from reps. like Jack Tobin, Fred Lippman, Anne McKenzie, Steve Geller, Peter Weinstein, Ken Jenne, et al. Jack was at the top of his game when he served as Chair of the HRS (now DCF) committee, and still had time to convince the Margate City Commission to pass the “uber cross” for the church on Royal Palm Blvd….although most of us were Jewish.
    He believed in making compromises, as long as he was on the winning side. He and Lesley worked hard for the Alzheimer’s association and Area Agency on Aging, and he was deservedly honored by both groups.
    His family, his friends, his colleagues, and his constituants have lost a “Big Man” today.

    Former Representative Steven Feren

  13. Steve Geller says:


    I’m shocked and saddened. Please post funeral and shiva plans.


    Steve Geller

  14. Dan Ray says:

    As a reporter who covered Broward politics in the ’80s for the Herald, I always found Jack to be accessible and pleasant. My condolences to his family.

    Hey, Dan. I haven’t heard anything about you in years. I’m happy to have you at

  15. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    Rest in Peace. A political stalwart has passed. Ms. Tobin, my prayers are with you.

  16. Le Peerman says:

    Service will be Friday at 1pm at Temple Beth Am

  17. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Heard about Jack’s passing this morning. He was a true gentleman and a statesman with a quick wit who was constantly thinking about public policy and how to make our community better. I’m thankful to have known him and send my condolences to his family. Whenever in Tallahassee, if Tobin was there, I knew I’d run into him at Clydes. He will be missed.

  18. David Brown says:

    Jack was a politician who brought credit and honor to the work of representing the views and interests of his constituents. I knew him well and ran his last campaign for the House. As it turned out he was elected without opposition. Jack was revered by his constituents, beloved by his colleagues and irreplaceable to his family and friends. We last spoke in January as he prepared for yet another legislative session. He expressed great concern that the legislature and the new Governor were about to dismantle so much of the good work he had done that has protected seniors and children for over 20 years.

    We’ll all miss you, Jack.

  19. Anne Mackenzie says:

    Jack was truly one of a kind – always there for a colleague, whether democrat or republican.

    We already miss you Jack.

    Anne Mackenzie

  20. News Release From House Democratic Office: says:

    House Floor Remarks by Representative Jim Waldman Regarding
    Former State Representative Jack Tobin

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Former state Rep. Jack Tobin died at his home Tuesday at the age of 69. He served for 16 years in the state Legislature and for two terms on the Margate City Commission. The following are remarks made by Rep. Jim Waldman (D-Coconut Creek) during Wednesday afternoon’s floor session in the Florida House of Representatives:

    “Jack started in city government as a commissioner, and then mayor of Margate. He first ran for the Legislature in 1982 when the state went to single-member districts. Jack had a great sense of humor and was one of the `class clowns,’ always ready to participate in, or plan, practical jokes. But when you put a gavel in his hand, his other persona took over. He ran an organized, timely meeting, keeping everyone on point, and did it with respect for all who participated in the meeting.

    “As chair of a committee, he believed every piece of legislation that was referred to his committee deserved to be heard by the committee members and voted for or against on it own merit, not on the decision of the chair. As a result, he was highly respected by members on both sides of the aisle.

    “Two pieces of legislation he will be remembered for are the Living Will (with then-Rep. Jim King) and a Mandatory Medicare Assignment in case of emergency (with then Reps. Steve Geller and John Rayson).

    “Jack also formed the Southeast Florida Democratic Caucus, made up of legislators from Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Their mission was to address issues affecting the southeast portion of the state, but I think it was just an excuse for a group of members to have dinner at Lucy Ho’s every Tuesday.

    “Jack chose to leave the Legislature in 1998 and started lobbying in 2000. He will be sorely missed by those of us fortunate enough to know and work with him.”

  21. Lois says:

    How different…pleasantly so…from what Bob Norman is writing on his blog. Good for you and your readers, Buddy.

  22. real story says:

    read the real story about tobin on the pulp new times
    feren, jenne, mandy dawson, chief judge weinstein (fellow shrimp eater) and Geller are they all as ethically challenged as tobin
    and lets not forget ritter
    was seiler with this crew


    The wonderful thing about the Internet is everybody has their say. Readers decide.

    I have a different view of Jack Tobin than the anonymous person who wrote this comment.

    I didn’t need old newspaper clips to learn about Jack Tobin. I knew Jack. I covered Jack in the Legislature and in Broward County.

    I am not blind to the man’s faults. I wrote about them when they were fresh news. I also wrote about the many things he accomplished for Broward.

    No one is one dimensional. They are multi-faceted.

    Yes, Jack helped his lobbyist friends. Yes, Jack made a living from his legislative connections.

    But Jack was never convicted of anything, which should still mean something. And the good works of Jack – the clinics and elderly programs he helped and all the rest he funded – are sprinkled throughout the county.

    Jack was a flawed individual. Who isn’t?

    Jack was so much more than those flaws. He had a broad sense of humor. He was fun to be with and cover. He was a bigger-than-life force who had a positive influence on thousands of constituents.

    That’s the Jack I want to remember.

  23. Jack Shifrel says:

    I knew Jack Tobin (JT to his friends), for more than 30 years. I considered him a friend and express my deepest sympathy to his beautiful wife Leslie and their family. Jack never shied away from a fight or a controversial issue & he won far more than he lost. Anyone who knew him had to respect his intellect and appreciate his great sense of humor. If you wanted an MC for an event, you couldn’t do better than Jack. Whether it was a roast or an installation, he was as good as any member of the Friars Club. When he was a State Representative, Jack used to say about lobbyists that, if he couldn’t eat their food, drink their drinks, accept their campaign contributions & vote against them anyway, he shouldn’t be there. Jack Tobin not only fought for his constituents, he fought for what he believed in. When I told him about a bill I was advocating for that would help dialysis patients, he immediately became the prime sponsor in the State House & actively worked on helping pass the Bill. That was the kind of man Jack Tobin was. Jack Tobin will be missed.

  24. Jack Seiler says:


    Jack was a good man and will be missed. I never had the good fortune of serving with him in Tallahassee (he retired 2 years before I got elected to the Florida House in 2000), but I had the good fortune of working with him on many issues of concern to the State and South Florida. As a lobbyist, I always found him to be honest, hard working, and bright, and he had a tremendous sense of humor. Also, as you indicated, Jack was always fun to be with and he always had a smile. Thanks for your fair coverage of him in life and in death.