An auto insurance company that regularly fights cases in court has created a political committee and spent nearly $227,000 in support of two Miami incumbent judicial candidates.
The large infusion of money from Citizens for Judicial Fairness, created by United Auto Insurance, appears to be a first in a local judicial election and has sparked a bitter election battle against the industry’s perpetual courtroom foe: personal injury lawyers, who have now started a rival committee.
United Auto’s efforts have also sparked unusual campaign drama — with one candidate’s own treasurer resigning in protest over the perception that a special interest group is spending exorbitantly before the Aug. 26 election.
“It’s ground-breaking. It’s never happened before,” lawyer Hector Lombana said of United Auto’s efforts. He cited the company’s political committee as his reason for resigning as campaign treasurer for Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith.
“It’s worrisome when you have an industry that is constantly in court exercising its financial muscle in the election for those who are going to judge it,” Lombana said.
The committee is supporting Smith against upstart candidate Christian Carrazana. In the other race, the organization is backing Miami-Dade County Court Judge Nuria Saenz against Victoria Ferrer. Both opponents are personal injury lawyers, a group that frequently sues auto insurance companies on behalf of motorists and clinics.