Looking to spur African-American turnout at the polls, Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, launched a new group called Florida African-American Caribbean Empowerment (FACE) on the steps of the old Capitol on Tuesday.
Every time an election comes around, people who look like me feel the love of politicians, said Hill, who is African-American.
With an estimated 1.6 million African-American voters, approximately 13 percent of the total electorate in Florida, the FACE organizers hoped to increase that number. Hill noted that African-American and Caribbean turnout rose dramatically in Florida in 2008 with more than 440,000 new voters coming out when Barack Obama was on the ballot.
FACE staffers cited numbers from the National Committee for an Effective Congress that maintain that African-American turnout will plummet from the 2008 numbers come November -- with as many as 33 percent of those who voted in 2008 not coming to the polls in 2010. FACE said they hoped to reverse that trend by educating voters and getting many of them registered to participate in the primaries in August and the general election in November.
Were building a permanent infrastructure that will be a force before, during and after the election, said Hill.
FACE intends to focus its efforts in 18 counties -- with initial operations set up inBroward, Duval, Hillsborough, Lee, Leon, Miami-Dade, Pinellas and St. Lucie counties.
While former Rep. Curtis Richardson, who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson of Tallahassee, and Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, are in attendance with Hill, the organizers insisted this was not a partisan effort to help Democrats, even though Hill had served as Democratic lead whip and floor leader in the Senate.
Asked if they had reached out to Republicans, the leadership of FACE said they had --namely to Rep. Jennifer Carroll, R-Jacksonville. Carroll, who served as deputy majority leader and majority whip in the House, was born in Trinidad and is the first black female Republican legislator in Floridas history.
This is a nonpartisan effort, insisted FACE state director Ramon Alexander.
This isnt bipartisan, said Hill. Its nonpartisan.
The organization, which is based in Miami Lakes, has already set up a Web site with links for voters looking to register and a calendar of important dates to register and vote.
Were going to turn out like weve never turned out before, promised Hill.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 850-727-0859.