(WEST PALM BEACH) — It was one small step for a young man that some hope will be part of a quiet leap in voting in the Nov. 4 general election.
David Bailey acknowledged that his mom made him do it, when he registered to vote on a Saturday afternoon at the Right Turn International center on Tamarind Avenue in West Palm Beach.
But the newly minted 18-year-old said he would have done it without her urging, “For me. For the future. For the future.”
Operating on the principle that “you bring the services to the people,” Linda Lewis, director of the community center, was partnering with the League of Women Voters on Sept. 27 “to try to get as many people registered to vote as we could.”
Questions such as turnout and voting rights that were mentioned then, also dominated days later when the Together We Stand Democratic Club of Palm Beach County hosted its sixth annual Community Roast.
Between jabs at the “roastee” — West Palm Beach Commissioner Sylvia Moffett — during the Oct. 11 event at Airport Hilton in West Palm Beach, the focus also was on key individual races.
To underscore one reason why his mostly Democratic, fellow African-Americans should vote, incumbent state Rep. Bobby Powell assessed the makeup of the state Legislature: 45 Democrats and 75 Republicans forming the 120-member House of Representatives, 14 Democrats and 26 Republicans in the Senate.
“Our Cabinet is entirely Republican,” Powell said. “You’ve got Gov. Scott who is a Republican, Adam Putnam who is the commissioner of Agriculture, Pam Bondi who’s attorney general, and then you’ve got our very own from Palm Beach County, Jeff Atwater, who is the chief financial officer. So the election is important because we need to kind of balance it out, in order to have some type of support on our side.”
The strongly contested gubernatorial contest atop the state ballot features Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and his vice governor running mate Carlos Lopez-Cantera, against former Republican now Democrat Charlie Crist running with Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chairwoman Annette Taddeo-Goldstein.
“I know that Charlie will be with blacks on the issue of restoring the voting rights of felons who have served their time,” said Jean Enright, a Port of Palm Beach commissioner. She likes his views on other issues too, she said. “I know that he was a Republican years ago. But people change and things change. He supports President Obama. We support the president. And therefore I believe and I’m hoping that all African-Americans come out to vote this time.”
On the federal level, Lynne Hubbard, a Together We Stand member and also president of the Palm Beach County chapter of the Democratic Black Caucus, cited the U.S. District 20 congressional race in which incumbent Rep. Alcee Hastings is being challenged by Republican Jay Bonner.
“That’s a very important seat for our community,” said Hubbard, a former Riviera Beach councilwoman, “because (Hastings) is such a wealth of knowledge and information about the process and how it works, and what the different topics, issues, systems, policies and procedures mean to our community.”
Among other contests, Hubbard emphasized the District 88 House race in which Powell is being challenged by a write-in candidate, and the commissioner of agriculture post held by Putnam.
“There’s a Democratic African-American candidate, Lt. Col. Thaddeus Hamilton, with 25 years or better in the Department of Agriculture,” Hubbard said. “He has received numerous environmental awards from even Republican presidents,” but even though he is especially well qualified, she said, “has gotten very little attention from the Florida Democratic Party, to my dismay.” In that race, she added, “The hope is that Democrats vote Democrat down the ballot.”
Similarly, Hubbard said, “We’re telling folks to vote yes-yes-no-yes-yes on the five constitutional amendments on the ballot.” Those cover water and land conservation, medical use of marijuana, appointment of judicial vacancies, the Children’s Services Council and school operational needs.
The marijuana amendment has perhaps been most debated. Supporters such as Hubbard see possibilities for “a great legal campaign to get our boys out who are in jail just on possession charges.” Enright said she doesn’t see “any benefits to the black community,” adding that “If you’re ill the physician can prescribe marijuana for you as far as the pain.”
As for Amendment 3, a change from electing judges to gubernatorial appointment, “I just don’t feel it is right that we should allow an outgoing governor to do that,” said Powell.
C. B. Hanif can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org