hazel-rogers_web.jpgIn the heated race for state House District 94, former Lauderdale Lakes City Commissioner Hazelle Rogers defeated five contenders.

Rogers won the seat outright because there were no non-Democratic challengers.

The seat has been held by state Rep. Matt Meadows, who could not run for re-election because of term limits. Meadows endorsed Rogers, who was once the campaign manager of one of her own contenders — Eric Hammond — during Hammond’s previous unsuccessful attempts in 2002 and 2004 to oust Meadows.

Capturing roughly 40 percent of the vote, Rogers had an overwhelming lead over Hammond, Robert Lynch, Kenneth Thurston, Rubin Young and attorney Roshawn Banks.

Rogers was first elected to the Lauderdale Lakes City Commission in 1996. She will be the first Caribbean-American woman to represent the cities of Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, Plantation, Sunrise, North Lauderdale and Margate in the Florida Legislature.

“Her victory is her reward for her work. It validates the opinion of what the voters think of her. She has committed her life to service and this is her
crowning moment,” said Glenn Joseph, Rogers’ media adviser.

Hulbert James, Rogers’ campaign manager, said her primary focus will be on issues such as affordable housing and health insurance, budget shortfalls in county municipalities, and education issues such as FCAT mandates.

In one of the most contentious campaigns in the county, Rogers faced Hammond, another Jamaican-American who shared her strong Caribbean community ties. Hammond, who threw more than $100,000 of his own money into the race, said his campaign was not able to raise money from the community because of his former ally’s backstabbing.

“We did what we had to do in the race. We did not leave any stones unturned. We did what was necessary, but it just did not pan out the way we expected it. We were up against some heavy hitters,” Hammond said.

Joseph said Rogers’ win had nothing to do with her personality or backstabbing—she simply put her case before the voters and let them choose. Rogers attributed her success to a validation from the people of Lauderdale Lakes for her 12 years of service, Joseph said.

“No one has any dominion over any community. When those occasions come up, we should look at them in a vein that allows the abilities and the competence of the people going [to vote], to be displayed in a manner that gives the working population an opportunity to choose,” Joseph said.

While Hammond garnered 27 percent of the vote, a third contender, Thurston, wasn't far behind with 22 percent.

“The people have made the decision that they wanted Hazelle Rogers to represent their interests. It may not be in their best interest, but we will move on from here,” said Hammond, who does not foresee running again.

John Hercules, a Lauderhill resident, said he voted for Hammond because of his vow to address universal healthcare and property tax issues in Tallahassee.

“I didn’t know that Hazelle Rogers was that popular. It shows that women are taking over. In an election, someone has to win and someone has to lose, but you just have to go back and prepare yourself for the next two years and plan better. But, if Ms. Rogers performs well and everybody is satisfied with her work, there’s no reason to change,” Hercules said.

Although there were some tight races across Broward County, more campaign workers than voters could be seen in precincts during Tuesday's debut of the new optical scan voting machines. Of the 952,439 registered voters in Broward, a mere 107,984 ballots were cast.


Photo: Hazelle Rogers