MIAMI — Maurice Symonette arrived at the final 2012 presidential debate at Lynn University with a message for Barack Obama, the Democrats and the media: “Republicans are not Racists.”
Symonette was among 30 black Republicans who displayed that slogan on their T-shirts during the Oct. 22 debate in Boca Raton, where they rallied for their political party and their candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The media, Symonette complains, “refuse to show us supporting Romney.”
The media did pay attention when Symonette attended a September 2008 Obama rally at the University of Miami. Symonette and about a dozen other black GOP demonstrators stood behind Obama waving placards saying “Blacks Against Obama” while the then U.S. senator from Illinois was speaking.
Although the group was escorted out of the room, Symonette says he made his point: Not all black people are Obama supporters, including about 50,000 black Republicans in Florida.
“We all want Obama out,” said Symonette, who is slated to become president of the Miami-Dade club of the Assembly of Black Republicans. The group is part of a national organization based in Florida.
“Obama so takes black people for granted and hasn’t done a thing,” said Clarence McKee, a member of the Broward County Republican Party executive committee.
“The net worth of the black middle class has been totally devastated under
Obama’s economics,” said McKee, a government and political relations consultant. “He has catered to the feminists on abortion, he’s catered to the gay community on same-sex marriage and he catered to the Hispanic community in allowing kids of people who were undocumented to get work permits. Meanwhile, black kids are at a 50 percent jobless rate.”
He is partly right. The jobless rate among blacks aged 16-19 is 50 percent and even higher but that is only in some metropolitan areas. Overall, the unemployment rate for black teens nationally was 28.6 percent in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — still the highest, though, of all ethnic groups.
A sluggish job market is one of the reasons Carolyn Kennedy, a Cooper City
resident and owner of a construction management company, says she cannot support Obama.
“At this point, we feel that there needs to be a change. We need something different from what we have had for the last four years,” said Kennedy, membership chairwoman of the Florida Assembly of Black Republicans. “We’re looking for the economy to make improvements, especially job-wise."
Samuel Newby, co-founder and president of the Assembly of Black Republicans and of the state arm, headquartered in Jacksonville, says Romney will better manage the economy.
“Romney is the right choice with this bad recession,”said Newby, who works for a soft drink company he asked not be identified in this story. “We need a CEO like Romney to come in and manage the economy.”
Black Republicans, he said, are growing their membership, which is up by 1½ percent in Florida.
While black Democrats are rallying their base with early voting efforts, Kennedy said black Republicans are mostly making phone calls and putting up signs in strategic locations.
The Rev. O’Neal Dozier, a staunch supporter of former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania during the Republican primaries, is critical of local and national pastors for “pushing blacks to go to the polls to vote for Obama.”
“I have been appalled at what the black clergy and organizations in the black community have been trying to do,” said Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach. “I agree, first and foremost, that everyone ought to get out and vote but we ought to push people to go to the polls to vote their conscience and values based on their religious convictions.
“I tell my people prior to every voting: Forget about political parties. Go to the polls and vote your conscience based upon your religious convictions.”
A Christian should never go to the polls to vote for any candidate who advocates abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage or socialism, Dozier said. He has criticized the Mormon church, to which Romney belongs, as bigoted toward blacks.
The GOP’s principles and platforms are why Newby says he switched parties eight years ago. “I felt like a hypocrite,” said Newby, who served as vice chairman of the Republican Party of Duval County in 2008-10. Although he was registered as a Democrat, he found himself voting for Republicans.
“During the Democratic convention, they took God out of their platform,” he said. “It is impossible for me to be part of anything that takes God out.”
*Pictured above is Maurice Symonette.