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Ralph H. Haben, Jr.
Haben's official House portrait
Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives

In office
Preceded by J. Hyatt Brown
Succeeded by H. Lee Moffitt
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born November 25, 1941(1941-11-25) (age 81)
Atlanta, Georgia
Political party Democratic
Profession Attorney; lobbyist

Ralph H. Haben, Jr. (born November 25, 1941) is an American attorney, lobbyist, and politician who served as the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from 1980 to 1982. Haben graduated from the University of Florida in 1964 and Cumberland School of Law in 1967, and began working as a government prosecutor, first for the city of Palmetto, Florida and then for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. He eventually became a judge before running for the Florida House of Representatives in 1972. In the House, he served on numerous committees, including the Criminal Justice Committee, and eventually became Speaker. He left the legislature to run for Florida Comptroller in 1982, but lost the only election in his electoral history. He briefly considered a run for Governor of Florida, but decided instead to become a lobbyist for many large interests in the state legislature.

Haben was known as a fairly conservative Democrat who focused on criminal issues; his tenure including multiple attempts to increase the penalties on criminals and create new task forces and funding to combat organized and violent crime. He also sought a number of tax increases to help pay for transportation costs, and opposed both the state Sunshine Amendment requiring that politicians disclose their financial assets, and the Equal Rights Amendment.


Haben was born on November 25, 1941 in Atlanta, Georgia.[1] Haben graduated from Palmetto High School.[2] He went on to earn an Education degree from the University of Florida in 1964, where he was a member of Phi Delta Theta. In 1967, he received his Juris Doctor from Cumberland School of Law, where he was a member of Phi Delta Phi.[1]

He served in the National Guard of the United States.[3] He is an outdoorsman, and his hobbies include fishing, skiing, and tennis. He also piloted his small plane often. He is a member of the Kiwanis organization and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.[1] He nearly died from a serious case of hashimoto's thyroiditis in 1991, but was stabilized at Shands at the University of Florida.[4] This was the fourth time he nearly died, following a black widow bite, the sinking of a boat 12 miles offshore, and a plane crash.[5]

Legal career

For the majority of his legal career, Haben served as a government prosecutor. He was City Prosecutor for Palmetto, Florida, and then Assistant State Prosecutor for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.[1] He later became a judge for the Palmetto and Anna Maria, Florida area. He left the bench and opened a private practice that he continued to operate while in the Florida legislature.[2]

Political career

Haben was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1972. He represented the 71st district, which encompassed parts of Manatee County, Hardee County, and three precincts of Sarasota County.[6] He received numerous awards during his tenure, including 1977 Unified Sportsmen of Florida legislator of the year, 1979 Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers Outstanding Legislative Contribution, 1976 Florida Sheriffs Association Distinguished Service Award for Law Enforcement, and 1980 University of Florida Outstanding Alumnus.[1]

Speaker of the House

Haben ran for the 1980 through 1982 Speakership in 1978. At first, he had an opponent for the position, but won his bid when the other candidate Franklin Mann dropped out of the race.[7]


Haben served as the chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee; when he first began, he was the youngest committee chair in the House at 35.[2] He also chaired the Subcommittee on Banks and Banking, as well as serving on the Finance and Taxation, Tourism and Economic Development, and Transportation and Commerce Committees.[8]

Electoral history

Harben was first elected to the House in 1972. That year, he defeated Floyd Price in the Democratic primary, and Republican Don Miller, Jr. in the general election.[6] He was re-elected without opposition in 1974 and 1976.[2] He only ever lost one election, when he tried to unseat incumbent Democrat Florida Comptroller Gerald Lewis in 1982.[9] At the time, it was the most expensive Florida Cabinet race ever run, with over $1.7 million spent.[10]

Haden had hoped to use the position as a stepping stone to the position of Governor of Florida; he considered taking on many different incumbents, but decided on Lewis, believing him vulnerable. He also briefly considered a run for United States Congress and also a switch to the Republican Party to run for their gubernatorial nomination.[9] He briefly considered running for governor in the 1986 election,[11] but eventually decided not to.


While in office, Haben fought attempts at lobbying reform pushed by advocacy groups.[12] After leaving elected office, Haben became a business lobbyist for a number of interests. These include the Day Cruise Association, a gambling cruise ship company, the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute,[13] and Alamo Rent a Car.[14] He helped the cruise ship casinos oppose allowing the expansion of gaming by the Seminole Tribe, who they viewed as competition.[15] He ran a firm named Pennington & Haben, which lobbied for bills from both major parties,[16] and currently runs the mediation company Ralph Haben & Associates.[17]

Political views

Crime and gun control

Haben was seen as a fairly conservative Democrat who built his career on "law-and-order" issues.[18] He supported the establishment of a permanent anti-organized crime commission to handle rises in mob related crime in the state.[19] While chairing the Criminal Justice Committee, Haben pushed two pieces of legislation that allowed police officer to shoot fleeing subjects and gave those who carried a gun while committing a crime a mandatory three-year sentence.[20] Haban argued against nearly all forms of gun control, and specifically opposed a bill that would have made it illegal to own inexpensive guns, commonly known as saturday night special.[21]


In 1980, Haben called the legislature into special session to increase transportation taxes. In particular, he advocated raising the fuel tax by removing certain exemptions, citing the need caused by decreased gasoline consumption and the increasing cost of building roads.[22] However, President of the Florida Senate Wyon Childers blocked the special session.[23] He pushed strongly for a measure to increase the state sales tax from 4 cents on the dollar to 5 cents on the dollar.[24]

Sunshine Amendment

The Sunshine Amendment to the Florida Constitution provides that all elected officials and candidates for public office provide a full disclosure of their private assets in a government form available to the public. Haben was highly against the Sunshine Amendment, calling financial disclosure laws the "greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the people of Florida."[2] He felt that the amendment was an unconstitutional invasion of his privacy, and that it did little to inform voters on who would be a good and honest elected official.[2]

Legislative pay

When the legislature sought to increase their pay in the 1970s, Haben opposed the efforts. While he believed that legislatures deserved a pay increase for their hard work, he feared that raising the salary would attract career politicians who would treat the position as a job, leading to less diversity in the House. This, he claimed, would move the Florida legislature, which only meets for a few months out of the year, closer to a full-time legislature.[2]

Equal Rights Amendment

Haben opposed the Equal Rights Amendment, not for the content of the amendment, but because he felt that lawsuits involving women's rights should be left up to Florida courts. Amending the United States Constitution would make any questions fall mainly within the jurisdiction of federal courts.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Representative Ralph H. Haben, Jr. Speaker (1980 - 1982)". Representatives. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida House of Representatives. 2010. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 "Rep. Ralph Haben". Sarasota, Florida. 27 March 1977. p. 6-F.,5396393&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  3. "Representative Ralph H. Haben, Jr. Speaker (1980–1982)". Representatives. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida House of Representatives. 2010. Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  4. "Haben Moved out of Intensive Care". Gainesville, Florida. 29 July 1991. p. 1B.,9040368&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  5. Morgan, Lucy (10 December 1992). "Ex-Speaker Ralph Haben Recuperates Yet Again". St. Petersburg, Florida. p. 6B.,4857290&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Haben is Given Democratic Nod". Sarasota, Florida. 12 September 1972. p. 35.,2110409&dq=ralph+h+haben+jr&hl=en. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  7. Associated Press (15 November 1978). "Ralph Haben Expected to Win Speaker Post". Sarasota, Florida. p. 5-C.,7289977&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  8. Mills, Jon (4 September 1982). "Haben Needed in Cabinet". Gainesville, Florida. p. 5A.,1613825&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Crowley, Brian (8 September 1982). "Incumbent Lewis Wins over Habin, Stays on Cabinet". Palm Beach County, Florida. p. A8.,4408614&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  10. Associated Press (9 September 1982). "Lewis: Error Downed Haben". Daytona Beach, Florida. p. 3A.,4024294&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  11. Associated Press (3 April 1984). "Former Speaker Haben Considers Governor's Race". Gainesville, Florida. p. 6B.,628309&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  12. Associated Press (18 December 1980). "Lobbyist Reform Sought by Group". Boca Raton, Florida. p. 13A.,3887859&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  13. "2008 Legislative Lobbyist: Ralph H. Haben, Jr.". Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Legislature. 2008. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  14. Morgan, Lucy (19 April 1989). "House Committee Compromises on Rental Car Issue". St. Petersburg, Florida. p. 4B.,5398819&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  15. Associated Press (17 August 2007). "Will State, Tribe Take the Gamble?". St. Petersburg, Florida. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  16. "Distinguished Alumni". Alumni Affairs. Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida. 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  17. "Biography". Tallahassee, Florida: Ralph Haben & Associates. 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  18. United Press International (11 April 1979). "Caucus Chooses Haben to be 1981-82 Speaker". St. Petersburg, Florida. p. 4B.,1786185&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  19. Hooker, Robert (17 November 1977). "Panel Calls for Permanent Anti-Mobster Commission". St. Petersburg, Florida. p. 9B.,875605&dq=ralph+h+haben+jr&hl=en. Retrieved 3 September 2010. [dead link]
  20. Associated Press (2 May 1975). "Anti-Crime Legislation OK Expected". Ocala, Florida. p. 1.,163920&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  21. Associated Press (28 May 1976). "Move to Ban Cheap Guns Defeated". Daytona Beach, Florida. p. 3A.,4272110&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  22. Associated Press (19 December 1980). "Special Session Eyed for Transportation Study". Daytona Beach, Florida. p. 12C.,1807336&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  23. Miller, Sam (20 December 1980). "Session on Gas Tax Blocked by Childers". Sarasota, Florida. p. 9-D.,2528531&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  24. Associated Press (1 March 1982). "Poll of Legislators Finds Graham-Haben Tax Plan Faces Uphill Battle". St. Petersburg, Florida. p. 2B.,90316&dq=ralph-haben&hl=en. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 

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