Post # 309, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary
Representative Barry Kutun of Miami was destined for a leadership career starting as President of the Student Body in his high school days at Miami Edison.
State Representative Barry Kutun was a natural for politics. He was an outstanding student at Miami Edison High School and although somewhat undersized, played football alongside University of Florida great Frank Lasky. Kutun was elected President of the Student Body in one of Florida's largest and most prominent High Schools. He took his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida and his law degree from the University of Miami, cum laude.
I first met Barry when we campaigned together in 1972. He won his seat in the House of Representatives with ease and moved into the leadership of the House upon arrival in Tallahassee. He was one of the few freshmen to Chair a Subcommittee--the important House Subcommittee on Retardation. He authored the landmark Bill of Rights for the Retarded, which became a model for other states. He was re-elected without opposition and was named by Speaker Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) Chairman of the powerful Committee on Health and Rehabilitative Services.
When I was elected to the House in 1974 and became a member of the House HRS Committee, Barry honored me by appointing me to Chair the House Subcommittee on Corrections. There were over 40 new members of the House and only 2 were named to chair subcommittees (the other was Lee Moffitt, who went on to become Speaker and founder of the important Moffit Cancer Center of Tampa), which made Barry's appointment so special to me.
In 1975, Don Tucker decided to run for re-election as Speaker, which had never been done before. The appointment troubled Barry, and although very close to Tucker, he decided to support House reformer and respected member Jim Redman of Plant City. Barry's colleague in the Miami-Dade Delegation and powerful Majority Leader Dick Clark had told him, "If you are going after the King (Speaker Tucker) Barry, you better kill him." That was a signal that if Tucker won re-election, Kutun would be removed from the leadership. Tucker won and did not appoint Kutun to the new leadership team.
But Representative Kutun came back in subsequent years to serve in very important House Committees and in 1986 announced he would run for the Democratic nomination for Governor. As a six-term legislator from population-rich Miami Dade, Kutun was considered a serious candidate for Governor. His running-mate was a very popular member of the House Representatives, Bobby Hattaway (D., Altamonte Springs). Ultimately former State Representative Steve Pajcic of Jacksonville won the Democratic nomination, aided by Kutun's endorsement. Former Republican Tampa Mayor Bob Martinez beat Pajcic in 1986, with the surprise support of former Democratic Attorney General Jim Smith of Tallahassee.
Barry Kutun was an outstanding member of the Florida Legislature during the Golden Age of the '70s and '80s. But for a turn here or there, he would have gone even farther in the process he loved--lawmaking and governing.