The Slosberg political dynasty might not be over just yet.
It seemed possible, even likely, early this year, when state Rep. Emily Slosberg-King said she wouldn’t run for another term in the state House of Representatives.
In 2020, her father, former state Rep. Irv Slosberg, attempted a political comeback, but received just 31% of the vote in a Democratic primary for Florida Senate.
Now, a third member of the family, Wendy Slosberg, daughter of Irv and sister of Emily, has said she hopes to win a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.
One big complicating factor: To do so, she’d have to defeat an incumbent, state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, in a summer Democratic primary.
A third Democrat, Hasan Zahangir, is also running in Palm Beach County’s District 92.
The Slosbergs have had a remarkable run in Palm Beach County politics (sometimes in districts that included a slice of north Broward).
Irv Slosberg, the former state representative, is the winner and loser of some of the most colorful and big-money campaigns during the last two decades.
A horrible accident propelled him into politics.
On Feb. 23, 1996, seven middle-school students squeezed into the back seat of a Honda Civic, agreeing to leave a bowling alley with two older teens they had just met. The car, traveling at 90 mph, hit a median and slammed into an oncoming car, and the young passengers were thrown from the rear window.
Four girls and one boy were killed. Among those killed were Dori Slosberg, 14, the twin sister of Emily Slosberg, who survived with serious injuries. A seventh youth was paralyzed.
“If my daughter didn’t die in a car crash, I probably wouldn’t have run,” Slosberg said. “I did everything in honor of my daughter Dori.”
After graduating from college, Slosberg had a stint driving a taxi in Chicago, and eventually became a millionaire by importing handbags. Once he entered the world of politics, he ran with gusto, money (lots of it), often didn’t observe traditional political niceties — much to the irritation of many others in the political world — and proved himself adept at political marketing.
The signature of his initial, successful 2000 run for the state House was the wildly popular distribution of canvass “schlepper bags” to voters.
He never let up on the marketing.
In 2005, after Hurricane Wilma passed over Palm Beach County, Slosberg was out in the community and on television as if he were the only one who cared about its victims, leaving other elected officials with a mixture of awe and disdain.
He named his effort SEMA, for Slosberg Emergency Management Agency, a play on the federal government’s FEMA, and went on “ice patrol” delivering the commodity to condominium residents.
He had notable political victories — and some major political defeats. He defeated an incumbent to win his first term in 2000, serving a total of six years. In 2006, he ran for the Florida Senate, losing the Democratic primary to Ted Deutch. (Deutch eventually went on to Congress.)
Slosberg spent $2.8 million of his own money ($196 a vote) on that campaign. Deutch spent $344,800 ($19 a vote).
Besides filling the airwaves and mailboxes with his advertising — a heavy run of television ads touted his ice, water and food giveaways from the year before — Slosberg also did things like buy corned beef sandwiches and movie tickets for seniors.
Also during the 2006 campaign, he had his own refrigerated, hurricane-relief trucks stocked with ice and other essentials.
After losing that Senate race, he mounted a successful comeback, serving another six-year stint in the Florida House, from 2010 to 2016.
In 2020, he ran again for the Florida Senate. Among the pandemic-era giveaways: cloth face masks emblazoned with his “Let Irv Serve!” campaign slogan, and mailed them to people who requested vote-by-mail ballots. Finance reports showed that Slosberg, who had put $1.1 million of his own money in the campaign by mid-summer, spent more than $35,000 on the masks.
He lost that Senate primary to Tina Polsky.
Emily Slosberg-King is finishing her third term in the Florida House — after winning the seat her father vacated in 2016 — and was eligible to run for a fourth before term limits kick in. But earlier this year, she said she would forgo a re-election campaign. She’s expecting a baby, and plans to name her daughter Dori, after her late twin sister.
Wendy Slosberg, 44, couldn’t be reached for comment about her plans.
But several people said that last month, at the Kings Point Democratic Club west of Delray Beach, she said she’d be running for the state House seat.
Her father confirmed that Wendy stated her intentions at the club meeting. “She said she’s going to run,” he said.
The club was, for years, a key component of Slosberg’s base, and he said Wendy Slosberg is one of the group’s directors.
About her candidacy, Irv Slosberg said, “It’s up to her. It’s not up to me. I’m the father.”
Wendy Slosberg hasn’t filed documents with the state declaring her intention to run for the job, a step both Skidmore and Zahangir have taken. Candidates have until June 17 to formally qualify for the Aug. 23 primary ballot.
Some in Palm Beach County Democratic circles have wondered if Irv Slosberg, 74, would run again, but he said that absolutely would not happen. “I’m not running. My running days are over.”
Irv Slosberg said he achieved what he wanted — making the state seat belt law a primary offense, improving school bus safety and improving issues affecting seniors — when he got into politics. He concentrated on highway safety, such as pushing for installation of guardrails on Florida’s Turnpike.
Skidmore, 59, currently a state representative, started her legislative work as an aide to a state lawmaker in the 1990s, and has had winning and losing campaigns of her own.
Skidmore was a legislative aide to Ron Klein from January 1996 to October 2006, when he was a state representative and state senator before serving two terms in Congress.
She was elected to the state House in 2006 and 2008, then lost a 2010 campaign for state Senate.
In 2016, she ran again for the state House, losing the primary to Emily Slosberg, for the seat Irv Slosberg was vacating. Running again in 2020, Skidmore won.
In a show of strength in recent days, Skidmore rolled out a massive list of endorsements from 35 local, state and federal elected officials, including Congresswoman Lois Frankel, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, Clerk of Courts Joe Abruzzo — all former state legislators, three Palm Beach County commissioners and 24 current Democratic state lawmakers.
“Not only does Kelly have the courage to serve as a strong check on the Florida GOP’s dangerous agenda, she has the experience to effectively navigate the appropriations process and ensure that Palm Beach County gets its fair share of tax revenue directly reinvested back into our community,” Frankel said in a written statement.
Skidmore said residents of the newly crafted District 92 in southwestern Palm Beach County would benefit from her experience and leadership. “I, of course, have an appreciation for the legislative process. I’ve been at it for a long time,” she said.
In 2008, when Skidmore was running for re-election during her first stint in the House, Irv Slosberg had indicated he was planning to run against her, Skidmore said, but at the last minute decided not to.
In 2016, when Irv Slosberg left the House, Skidmore competed with Emily Slosberg for the Democratic nomination to succeed him.
Both Skidmore and Irv Slosberg said emphatically there is no bad blood.
“When it was over it was over. It was done. It was fine. I had no hard feelings. She had no hard feelings,” Skidmore said. Once they were both back in Tallahassee representing different districts, Skidmore said she and Emily Slosberg worked together and were friendly.
Zahangir has been president of the Bangladeshi-American Democratic Club of Florida since 2019. The club has been in existence for more than 20 years.
Zahangir, 59, said he’s been in the trenches, working for Democratic candidates since the year 2000. He’s currently a Democratic precinct committeeman and has never run for office before.
He originally filed paperwork to run in 2021, before the current district boundaries were set.
“A lot of people asked me [and said], ‘this is the time for you to run,’” he said.
He said he’s not intimidated by the prospect of a campaign against two major players in Palm Beach County Democratic politics. “I welcome everyone. The voters are going to choose who they want to represent them,” he said.
He said the Bangladeshi community in Palm Beach County numbers more than 8,000 and he hopes he’d get support from the broader Asian American community.
He’s a businessman. Starting in 1985, Zahangir said, he and his brother built successful Brendy’s yogurt and ice cream stores in Palm Beach County. They’ve since been sold.
“I’ve lived in the heart of District 92 for the last 42 years. Raised my kids here. People know me,” he said. ” I’m very familiar with the people in this area.”
District 92 is a new one, with no incumbent, because of the every-10-years redrawing of legislative boundaries, something designed to ensure each of Florida’s 120 state representative districts have about the same number of residents.
It takes in most of the territory in Palm Beach County from Military Trail on the east to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on the west and Hypoluxo Road at the north to the Broward-County line in the south. The district narrows at its southern end, and does not include many of the communities west of Boca Raton that lie east of Florida’s Turnpike and at the far southern end doesn’t include many communities east of U.S. 441.
The winner of the August primary is almost certain to win the November general election. An analysis from Matthew Isbell, of the political data mapping firm MCI Maps, found that in the territory that makes up the new District 92, President Joe Biden won 60% of the vote in the 2020 election and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum won 62% in 2018.
Terrie Rizzo, chairwoman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, lives in the district.
She said she’d like to see campaigns “focus on comparing and contrasting the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans,” something that’s difficult in a party primary. “We expect a vigorous debate.”