vote_web.jpgWith only a few days before the local elections, the fight for the Florida House of Representatives District 94 seat is set for a face off.

Six Democratic candidates are competing for the seat that is being vacated by incumbent Democratic Representative Matthew “Matt” Meadows due to term limits.

On Aug. 26, voters will decide which of the candidates – Hazelle Rogers; Kenneth “Ken” Thurston, Robert Lynch, Rubin Young, Eric Hammond or RoShawn Banks – is the best delegate to address their issues in Tallahassee.

Though the district encompasses sections of Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, North Lauderdale, Margate, Tamarac, Oakland Park, Sunrise and Plantation, all of the candidates live in the cities of Lauderhill and Lauderdale Lakes, and quite possibly share the same supporters.

Rogers, a Real Estate and mortgage broker, began her tenure as a Lauderdale Lakes commissioner in 1996. Ten years later, she was unopposed. But, because of election rules, Rogers was forced to resign from her seat that would have been up for election in 2010.

Hammond, an engineer, tried unsuccessfully, with Commissioner Rogers’ endorsement and Caribbean community connections, to oust Meadows during Meadows’ re-election runs in 2002 and 2004. Because of the publicity he received as Meadows’ lone opponent in both of his unsuccessful bids, Hammond anticipated an easy win when Meadows left office at the end of his term.

All the candidates, including Hammond, said they did not target any one ethnicity. Yet because Rogers and Hammond are both Jamaican-Americans and have close community ties, Hammond said he believes the race between the two candidates has created a rift in their predominantly Caribbean constituency.

“I am running to represent the diversified community, so I cannot target any one particular vote,” Hammond told the South Florida Times. “Right now we are splitting the votes in the Caribbean community and my biggest supporters are more within the Inverrary area [of Lauderhill] — not any one ethnic group, just everybody. And I am winning.’’

Campaign finance records indicate that Hammond is the apparent frontrunner in the campaign, having raised over $125,000. Rogers is next with almost $90,000, followed by Thurston with $58,000 and Banks with $13,000.

Lynch raised $8,000 and Young raised $2,000, and both campaigns have exhausted their funds. As of press time, Young could not be reached for comment.

Lynch said most of the constituents facing unemployment are “in a pinch,” meaning they have fallen on hard times. As a businessman, Lynch said he understands that the community can only survive if he helps to create more jobs.

“I am living the American dream and understand what it takes to make it.  I know hard times, having to pinch pennies to make ends meet on many occasions and have been blessed with skills and talents to strive for that dream,’’ Lynch said. “I’m not going to Tallahassee for a job, but to help create jobs; without jobs, we cannot reach the American dream.”

Lynch said that based upon the enthusiasm of the people at the Lauderhill polling sites as an indication, he will be the next state Representative of District 94.

Rogers is urging voters to let her 12-year public experience speak for her. She did not immediately respond to requests for comments, but said in an earlier interview with the South Florida Times, “I am listening to people talk about their needs and will work to represent those needs. I am confident that the voters will make the right decision.”

While her campaign states that she is ready to lead and prepared to serve, Rogers faces another serious contender who says she also represents the public.

Attorney Roshawn Banks is a criminal defense lawyer with her own firm. She spent the last 10 years quietly making a niche in the justice system. Out of all the candidates, Banks said, she is the most qualified for the seat as she has represented numerous Floridians as a Broward assistant county attorney and as a public defender in Broward and Brevard counties. She has settled property issues, immigration issues, family law and domestic violence disputes. 

Banks said she decided to run for office because she felt the current delegates were out of touch with the people’s interests.

“I am very realistic. No one person is going to dramatically change anything. You are one of 120 people in Tallahassee in the House of Representatives, so what your job is supposed to be is to represent the people,” Banks told the South Florida Times.

Political newcomer Ken Thurston disagrees. To get anything passed in the House, Thurston said, you have to build a consensus. He said his background as a business owner makes him the best candidate.

“There are some excellent candidates in the race…With my business experience, a bachelor’s degree in economics and having served on the kind of committee where it is necessary for me to sit with people and make coalitions, I am reasonably confident that I’m going to win based upon the comments from people who come in from the early voting sites,” said Thurston, the uncle of State Rep. Perry Thurston Jr.

With seemingly more issues facing voters than ever, this clash between neighboring candidates could end in a tight finish and be decided by a narrow margin of votes.