by Mike Sharkey
For 30 years, Wayne Hogan has been practicing law. During those three decades he has taken his humble upbringing, law school education and years of experience and applied it to a lifelong career battling the big guys for the sake of the little guys.
Hogan’s legal career is dotted with victories against companies that have deceived customers for years. As a partner with Brown, Terrell, Hogan, Ellis, McClamma & Yegelwel, P.A., Hogan has been a pioneer for victims of asbestos exposure. However, he may be best known for his role in battling Big Tobacco.
Hogan was part of a team that won a $17 billion settlement, of which Hogan stands to one day receive about $180 million.
Now, he is running for Congress against five-time incumbent John Mica. He relishes the opportunity to represent the area where he grew up and to have the opportunity to work politically for an entire demographic rather than a select client or two.
“What this election is about is taking the skills I’ve developed over the years and applying them on a broader scale to the issues of the day,” said Hogan, who graduated from Florida State University School of Law in 1972 and joined the Bedell firm shortly thereafter. “It’s an extension of what I’m doing on a daily basis.”
On the surface, it appears the odds are against him. He’s a Democrat running in a Republican-heavy area at a time when Florida’s governor — Jeb Bush — and the country’s leader — George W. Bush — are also members of the GOP. Toss in the fact that Mica has had a 10-year stronghold on Washington, D.C. and it’s easy to view his campaign as an uphill battle.
Hogan draws a very different picture, mainly because the geographical picture has changed. Thanks to congressional reapportionment, Mica’s district has been radically redrawn. District 7 used to run mainly from east to west and stretch from just north of Jacksonville to almost Tallahassee. The new district — and the one that will be affected by the Nov. 5 election — runs north to south, starting just south of the Duval County line and extending past St. Augustine, Daytona and west toward Palatka. This change was a major catalyst for Hogan to enter the race and the main reason he doesn’t view Mica as an incumbent.
“A large part of this district was previously represented by Ander Crenshaw,” explained Hogan, who is from St. Augustine. “I looked at the new district realizing that there were important issues that needed to be addressed — things like health care, prescription drugs, he environment and education. I grew up in that district and spent a significant part of my life there. All of that told me it was the right time.
“I have a career of experience doing the kinds of things a hardworking congressman should do. Mr. Mica has been in Washington, D.C. for 10 years, he has a new district and I view it as a new district and an open seat.”
Timing and financial security aside, politics has been in Hogan’s blood for years. He’s a former debate team and student government member. It was during Hogan’s educationally formative years that he was also first introduced to the intricate world of law in the form a guest speaker who just happened to be an attorney.
“I was first exposed to the law from a speaker, Frank Upchurch, at my ninth grade civics class,” said Hogan, who graduated from St. Augustine High and lists public education reform near the top of his priorities. “He was an attorney from St. Augustine who went on to become an appellate judge. He was also the first attorney I’d ever seen live, in person.
“That talk intrigued me and it gave me ideas about public office. It really focused me in regards to my career.”
Speaking of his career, Hogan has really only had two bosses: the elder partners at the Bedell firm and himself. Fresh out of law school, Hogan took advantage of knowing someone who knew Chester and Matthew Bedell and soon got a job with the Jacksonville firm.
“They had a great statewide reputation as a trial firm and that was the kind of work I wanted do,” said Hogan.
In February 1977, Hogan teamed with Jim Terrell and Tom Brown to form their current firm, though it was a bit smaller. With nearly a dozen attorneys and 50 employees, Hogan’s firm is one of Jacksonville’s most recognized and respected. His partners have also given Hogan their blessing as he pursues a potential second career making laws rather than putting them on trial.
“I told my partners what I wanted to do around the time leading up to qualifying,” explained Hogan. “This was developed quickly and analyzed carefully. My partners and the other lawyers have been great about it and have encouraged me. I have confidence they will carry on in the firm for our clients.”
In chasing a seat in Washington, there are two other obstacles Hogan must overcome. One, Mica has the advantage of experience and Hogan is disadvantaged in that there simply isn’t much time until the election. Two, another local big name attorney, W.C. Gentry, ran for a State Senate seat last summer, spent a ton of money and got trounced. Hogan has an answer to both questions.
“I know W.C. well, he’s a friend and we practiced together at the Bedell firm. But he ran in a Republican special election that was a primary election,” said Hogan. “That is totally different from an open election in which Democrats, Republicans and Independents will be able to vote.
“I’m confident the common sense approach will appeal to Republicans, Democrats and Independents. I intend to let them know where I stand about issues such as abuses of the environment and the free enterprise system and Medicare.”
Hogan also believes Mica’s experience, campaigning and campaign funds can be negated by a well-planned, well-financed campaign.
“I have been traveling throughout the district since the day I qualified,” said Hogan. “I have gone to St. Augustine, Flagler County, Palatka and other towns. I spoke the other day at St. Johns River Community College to a federal government class. I have spoken several times in Volusia and Seminole county. I’m out in the district meeting people and spending time with friends.”
Financially, Hogan and his campaign team haven’t set a limit on what they’ll spend. Don’t expect to see Michael Bloomberg-like numbers — he recently was elected mayor of New York City after spending about $70 million — but Hogan indicated he’ll both spend and work hard.
“I’m going to earn it,” he said. “My opponent has carried over a lot of money from the previous times he’s run when he had campaigns in which he didn’t have to wage a full battle. He has about $800,000 and we intend to spend more.
“I intend to see that our campaign has every resource available to get the message out about schools, health care and even