WEST PALM BEACH —The efforts of first-term U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Florida, to stay in Congress past this year’s elections heads the list of black candidates vying for office in the primary voting set for mid-month.
West, 51, a U.S. Army veteran, made history of sorts when he defeated incumbent Ron Klein, a Democrat, in his second try in November 2010, to become the first black Republican in Washington since 1876.
A darling of the tea party movement, West has spent his two years in Congress slamming Democrats and especially the policies of the administration of President Barack Obama.
Following redistricting caused by the last Census, West has moved out of his 22nd district, where he would have faced almost insurmountable challenges from Democrats and is seeking voters’ nod in the new 18th district which pushes deeper into Palm Beach County.
A heated race is taking place also for the also new House District 88 seat which has drawn four candidates, all Democrats.
They include Evelyn T. Garcia, 62, a retired Realtor; Bobby Powell, legislative aide to incumbent state Rep. Mack Bernard and a former West Palm Beach city planner; and Nikasha Wells, 32, an attorney.
Garcia, who was born to Haitian immigrants, is founder of the Caribbean Caucus. Her civic involvement includes the Riviera Beach Housing Partnership and volunteering for the Democratic Haitian American Caucus of Florida. She will support the Patient Affordable Health Care Act because it could help support those who cannot afford proper health care and possibly save lives.
“The Affordable Care Act has to be implemented in Florida. Studies have shown when Medicaid goes up, deaths go down,” Garcia said.
Powell has a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University and a bachelor’s degree with honors, from Florida A&M University.
Born and raised in Riviera Beach, his community involvement includes chairing the Riviera Beach Library Advisory Board and working with the Salvation Army Northwest Community Center Advisory Board and the Palm Beach County Caucus of Black Elected Officials.
“I care about the people I serve. I believe in someone who continues to volunteer, serve the community, serve the public — that’s my number-one goal,” he said. “I have the ability to help bring people together and help develop the leaders of tomorrow.”
Wells, who has a law degree from St. Thomas University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, was born and raised in West Palm Beach.
She said that Florida’s education system is suffering from a lack of funding and she also wants to help implement the Affordable Care Act in Florida and create incentives for local residents.
“I want to be a Democrat in Tallahassee advocating for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act,” Wells said. “I worked on the Obama campaign in 2008 and seeing what happens when we work together to effect change inspired me to run for office.”
Incumbent state Rep. Mack Bernard, 36, is seeking the newly created District 27 Senate seat after three years in the House District 84 seat.
Mack has a law degree from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Criminology from Florida State University. The former Delray Beach vice mayor is in private legal practice.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he moved to Palm Beach County at age 10 and currently resides in West Palm Beach. His main focus is economic development.
“The Inland Port (when completed) would create a new industry in western Palm Beach County,” he said. “Over 10,000 jobs (are projected), union, management, construction, distribution centers. This would help rebuild the middle class community.”
Incumbent state Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, is also running for the Senate District 27 seat.
Two candidates are running for the Group 1 seat on the Port of Palm Beach Commission. They are Joseph Anderson, 41, owner of a construction company, and Wayne M. Richards.
Anderson, who was raised in Riviera Beach, wants to improve the business climate in the area by upgrading the infrastructure of the port. He would also like to foster a partnership with the Palm Beach County School District by creating a port-based economics curriculum for student preparedness and global competitiveness.
Richard said the port’s sole focus is to bring new business as an economic engine for Palm Beach County.
Also in the Aug. 14 races is Cleamond Lee Walker, 62, a truck driver, who is seeking to become Palm Beach County Sheriff, challenging incumbent Ric Bradshaw.