Stern to run as Democrat in Dist. 91

Aug 13, 2009

From the Miami Herald; August 13, 2009

Setting up a showdown for a seat both parties covet, the daughter of a prominent campaign consultant will run as a Democrat for a Florida House seat that is the top local priority for the Broward Republican Party.

Barbra Stern sent a news release Tuesday night announcing her candidacy for District 91, which spans from Dania Beach to Boca Raton.

“I am a fiscal conservative who is sick and tired of Tallahassee politicians cutting healthcare and education funding, while raising taxes and fees,” wrote the 35-year-old Fort Lauderdale lawyer.

Ron Saunders, the Democratic ranking member in the House, had tapped Stern’s mother, lobbyist Judy Stern, to help recruit a candidate for the hotly contested seat that leans right in a county dominated by Democrats. Several Democratic candidates Stern and other leaders turned to ultimately rejected overtures to run.

Then Barbra Stern stepped forward — of her own volition, she said. “No one recruited me,” she said.

The seat is now held by Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff, who is running for state Senate. Though the district leans seven percentage points Republican, Democrats see hope in that as younger voters move in, the number of Democratic and Independent voters has risen. Ten years ago 51 percent of the voters were Republican; today the figure is 41 percent.


The GOP said it will work aggressively to keep the seat in next year’s race.

“I happen to like Barbra a lot,” said Broward Republican Party chair Chip LaMarca. “But the last seat we will lose is District 91 — I can make that promise. I think people who live in that district represent more toward the beliefs of what the Republican candidate will offer.”

Stern could face a tough road, and not just from the GOP.

One potential issue: her party affiliation change.

She initially registered as a Democrat but switched to the Republican party in June 2004 — in part, she said, to support her friend, Shane Strum, who ran for and won the county party chair seat at the end of that year. She served on the Broward Republican Executive Committee for a few years. Last month, she switched her registration back to Democrat.


Now she finds herself in the awkward position of potentially running against her friend.

Strum, deputy chief to Gov. Charlie Crist, has repeatedly avoided reporters’ questions regarding rumors that he will run. If he enters the race, he would likely ascend to front-runner status on the Republican side.

Until recently, Strum was a South Broward hospital district commissioner, although he hadn’t shown up at a meeting in about two years after he took a job in Tallahassee. The hospital district CEO at the time told him there was no need for him to resign.

Stern said she has not spoken to Strum recently about his political plans — although she did give him a heads-up she was contemplating a bid.

“He chuckled and said, `I bet I know who will be involved in your campaign,’ ” she said, a reference to her mother.


So far, two thirtysomething Republican businessmen have filed: David Maymon and Yomin Postelnik. Maymon has raised about $18,000 and loaned himself $50,000, while Postelnik has about $2,000.

Maymon said Stern’s entry into the race doesn’t change his strategy. “We stick to the message . . . smaller government, less taxes,” he said.

On the Democratic side, Freda Sherman Stevens recently filed to run. She lost a race to state Rep. Evan Jenne last year.

Stern was Democrat Bob Butterworth’s campaign manager when he ran for state Senate and has volunteered on other campaigns.

State election records show that she has given $3,000 to candidates in recent years including Republicans Crist and Bill McCollum in 2006, and Democrat Janet Reno in 2002.

Stern, who grew up in Miramar and lives in a neighboring house district, said she plans to move back into a family condo in Fort Lauderdale, which is in the district.