Born: May 16, 1948
Family: Divorced; one child
Education: Boston University, B.A., 1970; Georgetown University, J.D., 1973
Career: Practicing lawyer, 1978-2003; assistant public defender, West Palm Beach, 1974-78
Elected Office: Mayor, West Palm Beach, 2003-2011; Florida House, 1986-1992, 1994-2002
Florida’s newly redrawn 22nd District matchup featured two political veterans who “shed their past personas like pythons in the Everglades,” wrote The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Democrat Lois Frankel, known as an outspoken liberal, beat conservative Republican Adam Hasner in a hard-fought race in which both candidates played up their willingness to reach across the aisle to solve problems.
Frankel was born and raised in New York City. Her father was in manufacturing and her mother was a homemaker. Frankel was a tomboy growing up and enjoyed playing sports, especially basketball. She studied psychology at Boston University with the intent of becoming a psychiatrist, but her career plans changed when she became involved in the social movements of the late 1960s. “I was a student activist and I was involved in anti-war protesting and the women’s liberation movement,” Frankel said in an interview. “There were so many movements … it was all bubbling.”
Hoping to be “a change agent from the inside,” Frankel decided to go to law school. After getting her degree from Georgetown, she spent a year as a law clerk for Superior Court Judge David Norman, then moved to West Palm Beach. Her first run for public office was in 1986, when she ran successfully for an open state House seat. She eventually rose to become the first woman minority leader in Florida history. She also wrote the state’s first AIDS law, which among other things ensured confidentiality in testing. She waged an unsuccessful bid against Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings in 1992, losing 57 percent to 43 percent in a runoff.
Term limits forced her to leave the Florida House in 2003. She ran for mayor of West Palm Beach and defeated incumbent Mayor Joel Daves with more than 55 percent of the vote. Though she compiled what the Sun-Sentinel described as an “impressive” record, she angered several labor unions when the city laid off workers, and she developed a reputation for sometimes being abrasive.
In March 2011, Frankel announced she would challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West. For nearly a year, Frankel and another Democrat, political newcomer Patrick Murphy, struggled to remain financially competitive with West, a favorite of tea party activists. But in February 2012, West announced he was going to run in the neighboring 18th District, made more GOP-friendly by redistricting. Democrats avoided a potentially bruising primary when Murphy announced he would follow West to the newly drawn Treasure Coast district and take him on there.
But Democratic Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs also got into the primary contest. Frankel and Jacobs had nearly identical stances on issues from U.S. policy toward Israel to President Obama’s health care overhaul, but Frankel had the backing of national leaders. She was endorsed by Hastings and got a rare visit former House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi eight days before the primary. She coasted to a primary win with 61 percent of the vote.
The appeal of an empty seat convinced Republican Hasner, a 42-year-old former state representative, to end his failing U.S. Senate campaign and switch to the House race. In the general-election campaign, the Frankel-Hasner race was a fight to the end. Frankel attacked Hasner’s support of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which introduced vouchers into the Medicare program, and his stance against abortion rights. An ad placed by the House Republican “Young Guns” program, later pulled because of inaccuracy, accused Frankel of frivolous spending while mayor. The Miami Herald endorsed her, citing her “longer familiarity” with the district, and its Democratic lean helped her pull out a win.
Lauren Dickinson contributed to this article.