Frederica B. Wilson cruised to easy victory Tuesday in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 17th Congressional District.
With no Republican opposition in November’s general election, Wilson is likely to succeed Kendrick Meek, who easily won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Wilson captured 30 percent of the votes cast, according to unofficial results, nearly twice that of her nearest competitor, Rudolph “Rudy” Moise.
“I’m breathless,” a jubilant Wilson, wearing her trademark cowboy hat, said when the results came in. “I didn’t have much money but I had a lot of love, a lot of support and a lot of grassroots effort.”
The district encompasses Liberty City, Little Haiti, Opa-locka, North Miami, Miami Gardens, North Miami Beach and Aventura in Miami-Dade County and parts of Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale Beach and West Park in Broward.
Wilson easily held off the financial advantage Moise held over the other candidates in the race.
Moise raised more than $1.8 million, which included a $1 million loan he made to his campaign fund. That eclipses the $319,000 raised by Wilson and was more than what all candidates combined raised.
This was the first time a Meek will not hold the seat since the district was redrawn in 1992. Carrie Meek represented the district until her retirement in 2000 and her son Kendrick Meek won election to succeed her.
And it is the third time Wilson has succeeded Kendrick Meek in elected office, first snagging his seat in the Florida House of Representatives and then his seat in the state Senate as Meek himself moved up.
Retired Florida International University psychology Professor Marvin Dunn, a veteran observer of the black community, had little doubt Wilson would win.
“She’s very likable. She’s very well known for her work with children and her 5000 Role Model Program.” Dunn said. “People better get used to her hats.”
Wilson founded the 5000 Role Models Program of Excellence, a drop-out prevention program for minority boys that operates in 82 Miami-Dade schools.
A staunch opponent of the FCAT – Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test administered to public school students in grades three through 11 – Wilson vowed to put standardized testing on the national agenda.
“We have to give our students a quality education and stop relying on testing,” she said.
Wilson trounced the other candidates on the crowded Democratic primary ticket, all of whom agreed on most issues but diverged on the particulars. At an Aug. 13 forum at FIU, they agreed that the major issue in the district is jobs.
Wilson, a state representative from 1998 to 2002 and currently a state senator, wants to build a plant that would manufacture clothing, artwork and crafts in a Caribbean style.
Known for her sequined, patterned and velvet cowboy hats, the Miami native has spent many years working in the public school system as teacher, principal and School Board member.
Moise, the only candidate with a background in building small businesses, is a physician who owns a primary care clinic in North Miami. He called for more loans and grants to help small businesses. He was seen by some observers as having the best chance for a Haitian American to finally go to Congress and his defeat underlined the strong political force of the African American community despite rising Haitian American political strength.
Shirley Gibson, who is mayor of Miami Gardens, endorsed green energy projects and training people to work on them.
A 16-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department, Gibson holds a graduate degree in pastoral ministry from St. Thomas University. She played a key role as the first and so far only mayor in making Miami Gardens a city that boasts a balanced budget and extensive beautification projects.
Small businesses are a critical issue in areas like Liberty City and Little Haiti where they close down frequently.
Yolly Roberson, a state representative from District 104, bemoaned the decline of small business in the district, telling the Miami Herald, it’s “an embarrassment for the nation.”
The other candidates were North Miami Commissioner Scott Galvin, the only white in the race; Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami; Phillip Brutus, a lawyer who was the first Haitian-American to serve in the state Legislature; state Rep. James Bush III; and Miami Gardens City Commissioner Andre Williams.
Ronnie Figueroa and may be reached at email@example.com.