The Plot To Depose King Jenne

Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, have banded together for one simple reason: to stop Ken Jenne from becoming Broward's first strong mayor.

During the course of the conversation about Jenne and his prominent role in Broward politics, the 45-year-old Friedman, slender and almost boyish-looking, says he would not want such a public life as Jenne's for himself. "I have a family that comes first," he notes, referring to his wife and 11-year-old daughter. "I drive an Acura, I don't carry a bank of cell phones, I don't have to do all that."

Friedman is proud of his work as president of the $5 million David Posnack Jewish Community Center, too, and of the fact that every Friday in the law firm's second-story conference room, he and a group of partners meet with a rabbi to discuss "the Good Book."

What he wants from the political life of Broward County, he says, is "good government," in which power is distributed among decision-makers and business is distributed among the many, not the few. "I'm not against a strong mayor, but [I'd want] one with a lot more limited power than this. And I think single-member districts are a good idea, too."

Lionel Stewart wants to take Jenne's place as sheriff
Melissa Jones
Lionel Stewart wants to take Jenne's place as sheriff

Friedman praises Jenne and his integrity. "I've known Ken all my life, and I like Ken, I really do," he says. "He's a fascinating conversationalist, always interesting to be around."

But he questions Jenne's driving quest for power and recalls that, in a public and political career spanning almost 30 years, Jenne has lost only two political horseraces -- one when he sought to become the state's insurance commissioner and one when he campaigned to become state senate president. That was in 1988, and Friedman saw it happen.

Although he is careful to keep some stories off the record, he recalls Jenne's 18-hour-a-day effort to make deals, cajole, and collect promises that would carry the vote on the senate floor. Shortly before that vote, the hard-working team even flew to South Florida to lobby a wavering politician, who agreed to support Jenne. But as their chartered jet approached Tallahassee on the return, they discovered by telephone that promises to vote for Jenne had been broken. The king of Broward politics was about to lose.

"We didn't even land," Friedman recalls, and Jenne didn't bother to appear in the senate for the vote. He ordered the plane to head south.

Dan Lewis, a 49-year-old Connecticut native with a degree in political science and history, thinks Jenne is going to lose a third time, and he's doing everything he can to help that happen.

Lewis is a self-proclaimed master of demographics and strategy who compiles detailed records of every voter in Broward County. He will use these to discover which neighborhoods and even which homes are likely to contain voters who will visit the polls during an off-season election, he says. That knowledge will help him decide how best to use the $100,000 controlled by the Broward Good Government PAC.

Lewis hoards his information and refuses to discuss the dates or contents of paid political advertisements. But he eagerly explains an inflammatory guide to the strong-mayor issue, mounted on an easel that he hauls to public speaking events. Each page he flips through contains a succinct title such as "The Deal," or "The Meeting," or "The Machine." Several pages carry robust, full-color illustrations of pigs feeding or frolicking. "Yeah, that's got some complaints," Lewis admits, "But I'm always getting complaints."

Crisply attired in a blue oxford dress shirt with button-down collar, Lewis wears a tie even when he's working alone in the small house converted to office space he keeps on Davie Boulevard.

Surrounding him in that office are the political collaborators of another age, who appear in huge reproductions of 16th-century Dutch or Flemish paintings. The dominating scenes depict pairs of men strolling at court, heads bent, perhaps whispering. They are the silent partners in Lewis' political life, the old masters of political calculation and intrigue exhibited by Lewis "just to help people get in the mood," he says.

Lewis reveals a single computer printout detailing in bars and graphs his strategy for paid political advertising beginning in January and concluding March 14. The printout is the heart of the steering committee's strategy, something "Jenne would love to get his hands on," Lewis says. He seems to have calculated just about every detail: on which hour of which day and in which markets paid political ads should run and how much money must be spent to gain the attention of voters and to win a point in the polls on election day.

"It's a science," he says with pride, "and I'm the best at it around here." A science and a business. Lewis figures he's participated in more than 190 elections "either as doormat or strategist," mostly in Florida, winning 85 percent, which numbers about 158 victories.

He offers his strategic acumen to Republicans, Democrats, or anyone who can buy the service, he says. "I'm like the phone company or the power company -- you pay your deposit, you get the service."

Although Lewis volunteers his service to the Broward Good Government steering committee, his mercenary bent is worrisome to some, including Ellyn Bogdanoff, the Republican activist who works with the committee.

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