Name recognition could become a stumbling block for a sitting Broward County judge and a Miami Gardens councilman, both of whom did not garner enough votes to claim victory in their respective races in the Aug. 26 primary.
The prominent incumbents – Broward County Court Judge Ian Richards and Miami Gardens Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro – needed to receive more than 50 percent of the votes cast in their contests. Both were unsuccessful in attaining that goal but earned enough votes to qualify for a run-off.
In Miami-Dade County, Ighodaro faced Andre Williams for an at-large Miami Gardens council seat. Williams, a former city councilman, earned 40 percent of the vote while Ighodaro received 37 percent. Since neither candidate took in more than 50 percent of the votes needed to win, the two will face each other again on the November ballot.
Richards, the first African-American judge to be elected countywide in Broward County when he won office in 2008, faced two contenders in the Group 27 judicial race primary in August. Claudia Robinson, a criminal lawyer and a former public defender, and Jonathan Kasen, who has practiced law for 15 years and a commentator on CNN and MSNBC cable news programs.
Richards captured nearly 44 percent of the vote and Robinson came in second with 33 percent; Kasen placed third with 24 percent.
With no clear winner, the top two vote-getters – Richards and Robinson – will be in the Nov. 4 run-off.
“My reaction is that we have to work harder, knock on a few more doors and get the word out,” Richards said following the primary.
But as the two incumbents stump for votes, they are facing another factor on the campaign trail – name recognition.
“Some people may have reservations about someone with a strange, funny name, someone not born here,” said Ighodaro, adding that his Nigerian name is confusing
to some voters. President Barack Obama’s Kenyan name also drew skepticism, Ighodaro said.
Appointed to the city council in 2012 after running unsuccessfully for a council seat, Ighodaro said he is confident that Miami Gardens will look at his civic and community accomplishments and not rule him out because of his name.
“Our voters are smarter than that,” Ighodaro said. “When they see your heart is in the right place, they will support you.”
A protégé of the late community leader, Robert B. Ingram, Ighodaro served as Ingram’s chief of staff on the Miami-Dade School Board. With a background in criminal justice, Ighodaro said he has worked before and during his tenure on the council to help stem crime in the city. He is a teacher at Norland Middle School and adjunct professor at Florida Memorial University.
Williams, his opponent, has six years of city council experience, and predicts voters will elect him in November since he received more votes than Ighodaro in the August primary.
“I have been engaged in issues that matter to our citizens,” Williams said. “I am thankful they appreciate my hard work and supported me in the primary election.”
A lawyer, Williams was elected in 2006 to the city council. In 2010, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress then stepped down from the council to run for mayor in 2012, which he also lost.
Williams, who grew up in the community, said he has worked to create jobs in the community, including sponsoring job fairs and job training.
Meanwhile, in the Broward County judicial race, some speculate that name confusion may hamper Richards’ re-election bid, especially as it relates to the black vote.
There are two African-Americans named Robinson on the bench Broward County. They are married to each other: Judge Mary Robinson on the county court and Judge Michael Robinson on the circuit court.
Richards’ opponent is also named Robinson, and the concern is that some voters may be confused.
Richards said his key to victory is educating the voters about his record. He said he takes pride in having cut the active caseload in his court by more than half, from more than 1,100 to under 500 cases.
Voters, he said, have the responsibility of knowing one candidate from another.
“If that is her name, that is her name,” Richards said of his opponent, Claudia Robinson. “I can’t hold that against her. I’m trying to make sure that the voters are familiar with the record that Judge Richards has put on paper. ”
Claudia Robinson is an immigrant from Nicaragua who spent part of her childhood in Liberty City and Overtown.
“I am aware that there are two Judge Robinsons on the bench,” said Robinson, who is seeking office for the first time. “I am running on my merit, and I am not pretending to be something that I am not.”
Robinson rebuts some claims that she has not been a visible candidate in the black community. Since November she has been volunteering twice a month with the Fort Lauderdale NAACP helping the community with legal issues, she said.