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Battle Over Experience Dominates Broward Primary

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Steve Perman (Source: believeinsteve.com) and Kristin Jacobs (Source: Broward.org) are battling for the House District 96 seat.

Steve Perman (Source: believeinsteve.com) and Kristin Jacobs (Source: Broward.org) are battling for the House District 96 seat.

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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Steve Perman is talking trash. And now he wants Broward County voters to smell what he means.

The Coral Springs chiropractor this week unwrapped an odiferous “scratch-and-sniff” mailer — possibly the first of its kind in the Florida campaign world — to smoke out Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs in the Democratic primary battle for House District 96.

Perman, a former state representative trying to return to the House after a two-year hiatus, lobbed the salvo as early voting was already underway in the western Broward County race. The winner is virtually guaranteed a ticket to Tallahassee.

In the mailer, Perman blasted Jacobs over her vote to expand the north county “Mt. Trashmore” landfill by 37 acres.

“Kristin Jacobs voted to stink up our neighborhoods!” the ad proclaims.

The vote regarding the landfill occurred when Jacobs served as county mayor in 2013. She said the county did not endorse an expansion of the dump but instead codified land-use changes to a contract between the city of Coconut Creek and landfill operator Waste Management. The city and county commissions both unanimously approved the changes, which were also backed by the local homeowners’ association, Jacobs said.

“Everybody supported it,” she said.

Perman and Jacobs are in a match-up to replace state Rep. Jim Waldman, a Coconut Creek Democrat leaving office due to term limits. Waldman has thrown his support behind Perman, who served a single term in the House from 2010 to 2012 before being ousted by Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach. Rader left the seat open in 2010 when he ran for the state Senate. Before his 2010 election to the Palm Beach County seat, which also included a slice of Broward, Perman ran two losing campaigns for the House.

But while Perman had a short stint working the committee rooms in the Capitol, Jacobs, the front-runner in the race, has served 16 years on the Broward County Commission.

“She’s conscientious. She’s smart. She’s driven. She’s learned how to find a way to reach across the aisle and be a facilitator without changing any of her core beliefs as a Democrat. She’s a workaholic. She reads everything. She’s going to win,” said Ron Book, a lobbyist who represents Broward County and is backing Jacobs.

Two years after leaving office, Perman still wears his House of Representatives lapel pin as a badge of honor.

“I do wear it with pride. I wear it as a symbol that I was a member of the esteemed body,” Perman, 57, said. “That was something that I am very, very proud of. It’s something that I use as a reminder to myself that someone really can go up there and make a difference.”

Perman said he lobbied for the Florida chiropractors’ political committee on health care issues for 20 years in Washington before being elected to the House. He said he wants to return to the chamber to advocate for middle-class families.

“If you don’t have a seat at the table, sooner or later you’re on the menu,” he said. He points to legislation he helped pass — as a freshman Democrat in a GOP-dominated Legislature — that expanded nursing home diversion programs for frail seniors and enhanced criminal penalties for stolen credit cards.

“I was effective in an environment that was not friendly toward the Democratic point of view,” Perman said.
Waldman called Perman — whose campaign theme is “Believe in Steve” — “a solid Democrat.”

“Steve understands the issues that are important to the people in the district, education, health care. He has a great relationship up in Tallahassee with others and he’d be very effective,” he said.

Jacobs, 54, is forced to leave the county commission because of term limits, but it’s not her first attempt at higher office. She lost a long-shot congressional bid to U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel two years ago.

Jacobs said she has learned how to be effective after serving almost two decades on a county commission dominated by Democrats. During that time, she has carved out a niche on the national level for her work on the environment, including appointments by President Obama to several climate change commissions. She hopes to parlay her interest in sea change to positions on committees dealing with water issues, a priority for incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island.

Stopping herself at times from getting “too deep in the weeds,” Jacobs rattled off in-depth details about a variety of issues ranging from bike trails to water storage to red light cameras.

“I love policy. We don’t have enough people up there that are in essence wonkish,” Jacobs said.

With Democrats outstripped by Republicans in both chambers, Jacobs said she is “pragmatic” about working incrementally toward longer-term goals.

“You have to be assertive and you have to be direct and you have to pace yourself,” she said, pointing to her years-long effort to get Broward County to support a living wage.

Jacobs, a grandmother of three, also said she wants to bring a woman’s perspective to Tallahassee.

“We vote differently. We think differently. We negotiate differently,” she said.

Jacobs said she has already represented 75 percent of the district she is now seeking to serve, although she doesn’t currently live in the district.

“I know their issues. They know me. My 16 years of representing this area trumps his two years (in Tallahassee),” she said, adding that she and her husband, now “empty nesters,” plan to move into the district if she wins the primary.

The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam contributed to this report.

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