Netflix Screenwriter Running for Office in Florida’s Broward County

Courtesy of Subject
Chad Klitzman and Sami Gayle on a break from touring the offices of supervisors of elections in Florida.

Chad Klitzman, who penned the 2018 comedy 'Candy Jar,' filed the paperwork to run Nov.  5 and already has a slogan: "Chad Won’t Leave Your Vote Hanging."

Screenwriter Chad Klitzman, who penned Netflix’s 2018 dueling debaters teen comedy Candy Jar starring sister Sami Gayle of Blue Bloods fame, had just checked into a Fairfield Inn in Jackson County, Florida, when he called The Hollywood Reporter for a scheduled interview on a recent Tuesday night.

Klitzman and Gayle are in the midst of a 4,000-mile, 67-county trip across the Sunshine State that has had the duo spending upwards of 13 hours a day in a car over 12 days. They are not scouting locations, researching a script or casting a new project. Instead, Klitzman, who just turned 26, and Gayle, 23, are touring as many county supervisors of elections offices across the state as will let them in as Klitzman has announced an official bid to run for Broward County’s Supervisor of Elections.

Yes, that Broward County, ground zero of the infamous hanging chads controversy from the 2000 presidential election when George W. Bush defeated Al Gore. Though Klitzman, a Democrat, was just a kid at the time — born and raised in Broward County — he’s been obsessed with the political process and passionate about voting rights ever since. He’s even using that historic debacle as a campaign slogan: “Chad won’t leave your vote hanging.”

“Voting rights is an issue I’ve been passionate about my entire life,” says Klitzman, who officially filed paperwork to join the field Nov. 5 in a campaign that will see him face off with four other candidates. “At this current moment in our history, when voting rights are under attack both by foreign intruders and legislators, I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore. We need people running elections to get people excited about voting. A lot of folks are apathetic about the process, and once people lose trust and confidence in their institutions, it’s hard to rebuild that trust.”

He plans on doing that by relying on a diverse résumé that dates back to high school when he served as student ambassador to the Broward League of Cities. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in political science in under three years. He graduated from Columbia Law School and went on to practice law at Paul Weiss in New York where he worked on multibillion-dollar securities and corporate finance transactions. Working as an attorney, he says, helped him hone his attention to detail, “and that translates well to elections.”

His sister, who says they’ve always tackled big jobs as a team effort, praises her brother’s creative side as a screenwriter, something she believes will also translate well to a career in public office. “As we tour these offices, in some of the counties they’re telling us that 6 or 7 percent of their population between the ages of 18-25 are actually coming out to the polls. Voter outreach is necessary to change those numbers,” says Gayle, who is also partners in a newly launched production company with her brother as they continue to develop projects. "It’s not enough to just give people information. You need someone creative to think outside the box to get our young people engaged.”

Klitzman says his age will help him connect to those voters. “It sends a powerful message that you’re seen. There’s a lot of power in being represented in this space.”

Speaking of representation, Klitzman's manager says there's something special about him. “Sometimes you come across a young artist with a truly distinctive voice,” says Norm Aladjem, CEO of Mainstay Entertainment. “Chad is one such person. His passion to make a difference in the world, as a screenwriter and now as a potential public servant, is emblematic of the amazing human being he is.”

The election is set for Aug. 18, 2020, and Klitzman admits that even if he doesn’t win, he won’t be deterred from his ultimate career goal. “Ultimately, it’s about impact. Whether that’s through Broward County or writing a screenplay about social issues. When I get up in the morning, all I want to do is something to make the world a better place.”

As for his slogan, Klitzman says without missing a beat that he never considered any other tagline to accompany his campaign. “If you’re from Florida, your name is Chad and your politically oriented, it immediately sets up all those jokes. It’s a pun and the joke works, but it also captures how people feel at this present moment,” he explains. “Folks feel like their votes have been left hanging. That’s why I feel it works. Rather than just saying my name I wanted to give them something to remember.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.