Rep. Ron Klein (D)
Florida 22nd District
The barrier islands of Florida’s Gold Coast have been developed in spasms of land-speculation frenzy, not just as vacation places and retirement homes but as embodiments of dreams and fantasies. Consider Palm Beach, the great beach resort of the 1920s, where rich WASPs would abandon their snow-covered Tudor or Georgian mansions to live in Addison Mizner’s pseudo-Mediterranean confections. Or Boca Raton, where Mizner built the Boca Raton Hotel in 1926. Or Fort Lauderdale, a tiny town when Clyde Beatty brought his circus there for the winter in the 1930s (locals complained about the roaring lions). Back in the 1950s, many of these beachfront communities were “restricted,” which meant no Jews were allowed. Starting in the 1970s, high-rise condominiums sprouted up and down the Atlantic coast of Broward and Palm Beach counties. Today, they are home to many Jewish retirees from New York and the Northeast generally. But there are also working-age people here, and plans to attract more. Florida and Palm Beach County have subsidized the Scripps Research Institute’s new center in Jupiter, in hopes of attracting biotechnology businesses.
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In recent years, the old town centers have been revived. Palm Beach remains, as it has been since the 1920s, the precinct of the very rich. Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has his South Florida headquarters there, and it was the favorite playground of swindler Bernard Madoff—and many of his now unhappy clients. Boca Raton now sports the stylish Mizner Park, a collection of upscale stores. Downtown Fort Lauderdale, separated from the beach by miles of canals, is the site of new condominiums, the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, the Museum of Discovery and Space, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
The 22nd Congressional District of Florida covers most of the Atlantic oceanfront in Palm Beach and Broward counties, from Jupiter in Palm Beach County to Fort Lauderdale in Broward County. It is rarely more than a few miles wide, and in some places it is not much wider than the barrier islands separated from the mainland by the Indian River and Lake Worth. But it also has jagged salients that extend several miles inland. The district, a testament to the advances made in redistricting software, was drawn by Republicans in an attempt to provide a safe seat for Republican Rep. Clay Shaw after he barely won re-election in 2000. They removed the Miami-Dade County portion of the district and heavily Democratic Hollywood in Broward County, and they brought in Republican precincts in Plantation and Coral Springs. The resulting district is affluent and elderly, with a large Jewish population that’s politically very active in condominium groups. But the intentions of the mapmakers, here as elsewhere, were defeated by changing demographics and changing attitudes. The 22nd District has given Democratic nominees at least 52% of the vote in the last three presidential elections, and in 2006 it ousted Shaw.
Rep. Ron Klein (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: July 10, 1957, Cleveland, OH .
Home: Boca Raton.
Education: OH St. U., B.A. 1979, Case Western Reserve U., J.D. 1982.
Family: Married (Dori Dragin); 2 children.
Elected office: FL House of Reps., 1992-96; FL Senate, 1996-2006; FL Senate min. ldr., 2002-04.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., lobbyist, 1982-2006.
The congressman for 22nd District is Ron Klein, a Democrat first elected in 2006. Klein was born in Cleveland, where his father owned a five-and-dime store and his mother was a teacher. He interned in the Ohio House and for Ohio Democratic Rep. Tom Luken. He graduated from Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve Law School, then entered private practice in Ohio. In 1985, he moved to Boca Raton, where he became a name partner at a law firm that also did lobbying. He was elected to the state House in 1992, seven years after arriving in Florida, and to the state Senate in 1996, where he went on to become minority leader. While in the Legislature, Klein worked to pass bills requiring mandatory education about the Holocaust in public schools, trade initiatives that benefited Florida and extended jail time for sexual predators. Klein was a Democratic partisan, but also became a dealmaker in the Republican-controlled state Senate. Term limits barred him from seeking another term in 2006, and he entered the race against Shaw in March 2005, early enough to discourage primary opposition and to raise the large sums needed to challenge a well-funded incumbent.
|Ron Klein (D)||169,041||(55%)||($2,372,293)|
|Allen West (R)||140,104||(45%)||($555,543)|
|Ron Klein (D)||20,507||(85%)|
|Paul Renneisen (D)||3,603||(15%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (51%)
Shaw, first elected in 1980, was the second-ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. But in South Florida, he was in some political peril. After he won re-election in 2000 by just 599 votes, Republican-sponsored redistricting changes enabled him to win by fair margins in 2002 and 2004 despite vigorous Democratic challenges. Shaw, who was recovering from lung-cancer surgery in January 2006, touted his seniority, which made him next in line for Ways and Means chairman, even though most insiders considered Republican Rep. Jim McCrery of Louisiana the front-runner. Klein campaigned as a “moderate, pro-business Democrat,” but he had liberal stances on social issues, supporting abortion rights and embryonic-stem-cell research and opposing a ban on same-sex marriage. Each courted Jewish voters and pledged their support for Israel. Each offered fixes to bring down hurricane insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses. Shaw proposed a federal fund to back up insurance companies, while Klein proposed a federal income-tax deduction for homeowners who weatherproof their properties.
Shaw slammed Klein as a well-heeled lobbyist with connections to special interests. Klein insisted he had never lobbied state colleagues. And his prodigious fundraising allowed him to counter with ads that charged Shaw had let down the district’s large senior population by supporting a Medicare prescription-drug bill that prevented the government from negotiating lower drug prices. Shaw touted his plan to fund private investment accounts in the Social Security program, an idea Klein called fiscally irresponsible. Klein attacked Shaw for supporting the Iraq War and many of President Bush’s policies. The race attracted national attention and drew top party leaders. President Bush helped Shaw raise $800,000 during a campaign swing in the district, and First Lady Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made appearances for him. It was one of the most expensive House contests in 2006. Shaw spent $5.2 million to Klein’s $4.2 million. Klein won 51%-47%.
On the Financial Services Committee, Democratic Chairman Barney Frank appointed Klein to lead the panel’s efforts on property-insurance legislation. And Klein sponsored a bill to set up a government-sponsored enterprise that would issue low-interest loans directly to states to help them pay off claims after a catastrophe. His bill passed by the House 258-155 in November 2007 but was opposed by the Bush administration. Klein weighed in on other issues of importance to the Florida coast. He sponsored a bill to launch two new weather satellites, at a cost of $2.8 billion, to provide information to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. He voted for the Peru Free Trade Agreement in November 2007.
Klein started fundraising almost immediately after taking office, bringing in nearly $1.3 million in the first half of 2007, the second highest total among Democratic freshmen. Despite a Republican registration advantage in the district, George W. Bush had lost there twice, and the district did not seem any better disposed toward Republicans in 2008. Several local Republican officeholders who would have been serious challengers declined, among them Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams. The only Republican candidate was former Army Lieutenant Col. Allen West, who had retired after a 2003 incident in which he fired a gun near the head of an Iraqi detainee in an effort to make him reveal information about plans to attack U.S. troops. West’s explanation was that he had “sacrificed” his military career “for the lives of my men.” West received little support from the national party but still managed to raise $584,000. Klein raised $4 million and spent just $2.3 million of it to win 55%-45%, a solid margin, but one that suggests the presence of a fairly large Republican minority in the district.
After Republican Sen. Mel Martinez announced in early 2009 that he would not seek re-election in 2010, Klein told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he was taking a look at a possible run and “waiting to just understand what the race is shaping up to be, who’s running and just analyzing the logistics of the race.” In June 2009, Klein Endorsed U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.