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Politics

Dem Battle Royale Shapes Up to Take Meek's U.S. House Seat

April 22, 2010 - 6:00pm

With Kendrick Meek leaving Congress to run for the U.S. Senate, a crowd of candidates has jumped into the Democratic primary to take his place.

Including Pembroke Pines, Miramar, North Miami and North Miami Beach, the district was 55 percent African American and 21 percent Hispanic as of the last federal census. The district also contains some of the largest Haitian communities in the nation, and almost 40 percent of the district was born outside the United States.

This district is the most diverse in the nation, said former Rep. Phillip Brutus, who is one of 10 Democratic candidates running for the congressional seat.

The district is heavily Democratic. Barack Obama won 87 percent of the votes in the district in 2008 and the best recent Republican presidential candidate came in 2004 when George W. Bush pulled 17 percent of the vote.

Haitian-born Rudy Moise leads the pack in terms of fundraising, though he faces a number of candidates who are well known in the community and have been elected to various offices.

With a resume that includes stints as an attorney, a physician and a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, Moise looks to apply his experiences to Congress. Moise has far outraised the rest of the candidates in the primary. Throwing in more than $219,000 of his own funds, Moise has raised more than $295,000 from other individuals and now has $250,000 in the bank.

Moise may need the money since he faces a field of well known office holders in the district.

Known for her many colorful hats, Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, has thrown all of them into the ring. She has raised almost $183,000 for the race and still has almost $114,000 in the bank. Wilson said her many years of experience, including 12 years in the Legislature and a school board stint before that, will help her campaign. We have a lot of community outreach and grassroots support, she said, noting that she had led mentoring programs for more than 8,000 young people in the region.

Wilson has also stressed her national connections. I was one of the first candidates in the state of Florida to publicly endorse Barack Obama, she said, adding that many other Democrats were backing Hillary Clinton. Both President Obama and the First Lady are featured on Wilsons campaign website.

Rep. Yolly Roberson, D-Miami, who was born in Haiti, has raised more than $89,000 and has just under $43,000 in the bank. Robersons campaign is playing up its candidates experience, noting she has served eight years in the Legislature and has a background as an attorney and a nurse.

Robersons ex-husband, former Rep. Philip Brutus, has spent almost $9,000 of his own funds on his campaign and has brought in almost $38,000 from other donors. Despite that, Brutus campaign had only $4,400 cash on hand after the first quarter of 2010. Money cannot buy you a lifetime of commitment, said Brutus, who noted that New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine could not win reelection despite spending $40 million of his own money.

While he said his fundraising will increase, Brutus said his experience in Tallahassee and his connections to the community will propel his campaign to victory. People know my heart, he said. I am a fighter.

In addition to the legislators, the field includes local office holders aspiring for higher office.

Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson has raised $113,000, with $89,000 on hand. Gibson is well known in the region for leading the campaign to incorporate Miami Gardens. She has been aggressive on the campaign trail, taking shots at Moises connections to the district.

Miami Gardens Councilman Andre Williams, a Harvard graduate and an attorney, has hauled in $110,000 to his campaign. We are a hardworking grassroots campaign, he said, noting that more than 5,000 voters in the district signed petitions to get him on the ballot.

With Miami Gardens having one of the highest unemployment rates in south Florida and the second highest foreclosure rate in the state, Williams says his experience in the public and private sectors will help put Floridians back to work. Ive had success in the corporate arena, he said. I am a small-business owner. Williams said this background would help make him a good representative in Congress.

Longtime Miami Beach City Councilman Scott Galvin, who has served in Washington as an aide to former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, has raised more than $55,000 and only spent $1,500 so far. Galvin is offering praise to the Obama administration for its economic stances and foreign policy.

Haitian-born advocate Marleine Bastien, director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Inc. (FANM)/Haitian Women of Miami, has raised more than $56,000 for her campaign and has $28,000 cash on hand. Linking the environment and the economy together, Bastien is calling for a Green New Deal and pushing for more affordable housing. Bastien has been very critical of American efforts to aid Haiti and has blasted American immigration policy with Haiti, including taking shots at the Clinton administration.

Kicking in $48,500 of his own funds to his campaign, attorney Roderick Vereen has raised $25,000 from other sources and has $16,000 in the bank. Besides backing the Obama administration, Vereen is calling for more transparency in government.

Leroy Adam, a realtor, has also announced for the seat. While he has not raised any funds, Adams campaign has a Facebook page set up.

There have been rumors that other candidates, including Opa Locka Mayor Joe Kelley and Rep. James Bush, D-Miami, considered entering the race. They have until April 30 to declare.

The winner of the primary will take on Corey Poitier, a school teacher who is the only Republican running.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or (850) 727-0859.

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