Special Interest Fighting For House Seat That May Disappear



House District 97’s race will be about one big special interest—the PIP insurance industry.

But all the money that chiropractors, MRI clinics, accident referral companies and lawyers pour into the race may end up wasted.  There is a chance the Legislature will eliminate 97 during redistricting.

Until then, the money will flow.

Voters may believe the Legislature is all about issues like education and taxes.  But much time is taken up on matters that impact special interests.

Every year bills are proposed that can mean millions to various businesses.

And anytime millions are involved, legislators sit up and notice. One reason is that such issues generate the most campaign contributions.

A previous special interest fight pitted the cable industry versus the telephone companies in a massive battle over the future of telecommunications. That one generated months of debate and millions in campaign contributions.

Overshadowing the upcoming 2012 session will be the massive special interest brawl between the pari-mutuel industry and those who want to expand casino gaming in Broward and Miami-Dade County.

In the past, there have been bitter disputes between ophthalmologists and optometrists over what treatment each profession can offer.  Road builders feud with mass transit advocates.  The mail order wine supporters have battled the liquor distributors, who want all wine sold through their wholesalers.  And doctors are always quarrelling with  lawyers.

Many legislative races pit opposing special interests against one another.  The 2008 state Senate race between Democrats Sen. Eleanor Sobel,  Tim Ryan and Ken Gottlieb was really about doctors versus lawyers.

Sobel was backed by the physicians. Lawyers backed  Ryan and Gottlieb.  Sobel won the Democratic primary.

The Fight Over PIP

Next year it will be the insurance industry versus the PIP industry driving District 97.

Personal Injury Protection is one of two types of insurance coverage Florida drivers are required by law to carry and it typically provides $10,000 per person for medical bills, regardless of who is at fault. It has birthed a huge industry of lawyers, MRI operators, rehab clinics and chiropractors who cash in on the PIP coverage.

Here is the issue:

Insurance firms blame the PIP industry for ginning up phony insurance claims that everybody ends up paying for.  They contend some PIP lawyers, chiropractors and their allies commit fraud.

The PIP industry has been a major issue in the Legislature. There have been proposals to reign in the lawyers, chiropractors and accident referral firms like 411-PAIN, which connect victims with lawyers and medical treatment.  Even Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has suggested banning the referral firms.

Whenever somebody’s livelihood is threatened, they will defend it.  So the PIP industry is helping candidates who will stop legislation curbing their business.

Enter District 97 candidate Merick Lewin. He collected $62,360 through September 30, more than double the nearest candidate.

Who is Lewin?


Merick Lewin

His family owns the 411-Pain, the referral service. No wonder the industry of PIP lawyers, MRI operators, rehab clinics and chiropractors are heavily funding Lewin’s campaign.

 There Are Other Choices


On the other side are two credible candidates – both Democrats:  Robin Behrman and Katie Edwards.

Behrman is the principal of the Bob Graham Education Center in Miami-Dade.  A Davie resident and a grandmother, Behrman has been a teacher and principal for over three decades.


Robin Behrman

Almost all of her experience has been in Miami Dade education. However, are Miami-Dade’s issues all that different from Browad?  I don’t think so.

Katie Edwards was recruited by the state Democratic Party in 2010 to run for a state House seat in Southwest Dade.  State Republicans got worried and poured money into the campaign, defeating her.

The daughter of former Plantation City Commissioner Bruce “Dead Bug Edwards” Edwards, she was the director of the Dade County Farm Bureau at 23 years of age.  She regularly dealt with Tallahassee in that role.

Edwards is experienced, good looking and articulate.


Katie Edwards

Expect insurance companies to back either Behrman or Edwards, if Lewin makes it out of the Republican primary against Lynnette Karen Simon.  There is also a third Democrat – Donald Allen Prichard.

But hold on a minute!  This dustup may never happen because one House seat in Broward has to disappear and it may be District 97.

Legislators usually pick a seat where there is no incumbent when they need to eliminate one.  Since the seat is now held by stare Rep. Marty Kiar, D-Davie, and he appears to be leaving to run for state Senate, there will be no incumbent.

So all this jockeying is taking place for a seat that may not exist after the Legislative session.

7 Responses to “Special Interest Fighting For House Seat That May Disappear”

  1. Jack Shifrel says:

    Senator Eleanor Sobel might be surprised to read about who you declared the winner in the seat she serves in & Marty Kiar may remind you that you can say anything you want about him, just spell his name right.

    It’s bad enough when the anonymous cowards who don’t have the guts to use their real names destroy the English language, but Buddy… 🙂

    FROM BUDDY: I have no idea what you are writing about, but thanks for participating….

  2. What Shifty Shifrel meant says:

    Sobel was backed by the physicians. Lawyers backed Ryan and Gottlieb, who won the Democrat primary and lost to Sobel in the general.


    You mean – as an educated journo, who went to college after taking english in HS i suppose – Democratic NOT Democrat. This purposeful deformation for partisan purposes I will take as just a slip on your part. Stop talking like a Republic pundit

    Also – Sobel is a Dem. So she was in the primary against Ryan and Gottlieb.


    Absolutely right. I made a mistake and thanks for pointing it out. I corrected it.

  3. Scott says:

    Very good article Buddy. Just one correction, Kiar is not termed out, he actually has one more term. If the Senate district stays the way it is, I bet he runs for his House seat again. That would make it very difficult for all the people mentioned above.

    Thanks for the kind comments. You are right about Marty and term limits. The story has been changed.

  4. Nick says:

    Marty is not termed out, he is choosing to leave to run for Senate. He could serve another two years.

    And the insurance industry is going to back Edwards over Behrman. Although I don’t know if they’ll donate until they have a better idea what the districts will look like.

    You are right about Marty. The story has been changed. Thanks.

  5. Bob says:

    Marty walked to my door like two weeks ago. I asked him about the people running for his House seat and he spoke very positively about all of them.

  6. Kevin says:


    Good points. But technically-speaking, districts do not “disappear” when there is a fixed number of them (in this case, 120). They simply move or get cut up into pieces to be added to others. Obviously there will still be a district 97, but it may have to move to the other side of the Everglades or north toward PB.

  7. Richard says:

    There are some other great candidates out there as well.

    No retreads either.