(Special to Advocate from NY CaribNews)
As the final days to the Nov 3 election draws near, there is a fierce battle to sway voters for results in Florida and ultimately determine who wins the White House. This time around campaigns are relying less on Latino support and heavily on the Caribbean community.
Florida represents 10 million voters who participate in elections often decided by a mere percentage point, as history has shown. This year is particularly interesting as Latinos become less important and other communities are standing out.
The booming Black Caribbean community centered in Broward County becomes a focal point in this election.
Voters in this Democratic stronghold are eager to defeat Trump and are even more energized to turn out in support of California Sen Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate whose father is Jamaican.
Broward County, Fort Lauderdale, is the county with the most Jamaicans in the United States. Florida has more than 974,000 people of West Indian ancestry.
Many feel that a part of Jamaica will be in the White House and therefore they must turn out to vote.
According to census figures, the total includes more than 300,000 Jamaicans and more than 530,000 Haitians.
A conservative estimate for the number of Jamaican voters in Florida stands at 91,000, because many may not report Jamaica as their country of origin. Haitian voters are estimated at about 115,000.
“These naturalized citizens vote. They turn out,” said Dan Smith, a University of Florida political science professor. “We also know that there is a lot of mobilization that goes on in these communities.”
Jamaican-born Hazelle Rogers, the mayor of Lauderdale Lakes who in 1996 became Florida’s first Jamaican to be elected to office, shared, “I can tell you Kamala is in the tongue of everyone. They are talking about what must be done to make sure we deliver for the team of Biden and Sen. Harris. We are so proud, and we know that we must deliver.”
Most recent available data from the Department of Homeland Security shoes that between 2016 and 2018, more Jamaicans became naturalized US citizens than did Venezuelans, a group pursued by the GOP.
Locals are proud that Harris chose Karine Jean-Pierre, a Black woman born in Martinique to Haitian parents, to be her chief of staff and that Biden’s campaign senior adviser for Florida is Karen Andre, a first-generation Haitian American born in New York and raised in Florida.
Florida Rep. Anika Omphroy, born to Jamaican parents, said she and her team are encouraging people to vote by mail and early on, especially those who vote at precincts that may now be closed due to the virus. Omphroy said she identifies with Harris as a first-generation daughter of immigrants, and she also thinks the candidate is easy to like.
“She is a wife, a stepmom, an auntie, she can cook, she can dance. She has a good sense of humor and appeals to working-class people, to the middle class, as well as corporate men and women,” she said. “She is able to relate to everyone.”
During a campaign stop in Florida, Harris paid a quick visit to a Venezuelan restaurant and then headed to a historically Black university in Miami Gardens, where she met with Black leaders, including US Rep Frederica Wilson and Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce CEO Gordon Eric Knowles, who have Bahamian ancestry.
The campaign has released a TV and radio ads on Haitian creole stations and print ads for Caribbean publications promoting Biden’s relief efforts to aid Black-owned businesses, and referring to Harris as “our Jamaican sister.”