Public Defender ‘Help Me Howard’ Finkelstein says he’s not running for Congress

Anthony Man Contact Reporter
Sun Sentinel

Howard Finkelstein said Thursday he’s not sure what he’ll be doing when he retires as Broward County public defender when his current term expires — but it won’t involve running for Congress in 2018.

“It’s nothing I’d ever thought about. I’m really focused on finishing up this term, making sure poor people don’t fall through the cracks, and my great hope is to make sure that the next person that sits in the public defender chair is someone that is there for the mission of helping poor people. Not for the political power or patronage or political stepping stone. That’s really my interest,” he said.

Finkelstein said the notion hadn’t even crossed his mind until he was asked by a reporter, adding the question solved a mystery. “That’s why I’m getting these weird texts and emails,” he said. “I was getting some really strange texts and emails.”

Howard Finkelstein, left, and Patrick Fraser of WSVN-Ch. 7’s “Help Me Howard With Patrick Fraser.” (Courtesy/WSVN)

The question came up because a website devoted to courthouse politics posted an item late Wednesday hinting at the possibility, without providing any sourcing or details. “People are talking,” it proclaimed. “Howard Finkelstein v. Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Mr. Finkelstein goes to Washington?” The idea prompted lots of chatter, with more than 75 comments by Thursday afternoon ranging from praise for the notion to ridicule.

Finkelstein said Democratic primary voters in the Broward/Miami-Dade County 23rd Congressional District already have a choice in Wasserman Schultz, the incumbent from Weston, and Tim Canova, her challenger from Hollywood. Wasserman defeated Canova in the August 2016 Democratic primary, 57 percent to 43 percent. Canova said last week he’ll challenge her again in 2018.

Wasserman Schultz foe Tim Canova says he'll challenge her again in 2018

“You have two people out there who I think represent Democratic Party issues very well. And whether you are a more traditional liberal and in the Debbie Wasserman Schultz camp or you see yourself as more progressive and you’re in the Tim Canova camp, all I can tell you is these two people are extraordinarily bright and capable and articulate,” he said. “They know the issues. I really wouldn’t bring anything to the table except being tall, dark and handsome — and I’m none of those things.”

Finkelstein, 63, well known for his “Help Me Howard” legal segments on WSVN-Ch. 7, is in his fourth term as public defender, which lasts through the 2020 election. His chief assistant, Gordon H. Weekes Jr., has opened a campaign account to run for the job and Finkelstein said he wants Weekes to succeed him.

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