More than 1,500 people were in attendance at Monday night’s political forum sponsored by the Greater Miami Branch of the NAACP and several unions. The event was not a debate although it seemed as such with a few of the panels. Candidates from several races participated and several were absent but let’s get to that later.
You can follow tweets of the forum below. Forgive the typos; it was difficult trying to keep up with each person, especially Rev. Sharpton.
Participating candidates (In order of program): SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 2- Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall and Ronda Vangates; COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 2 - Dorrin Rolle and Jean Monestime; GOVERNOR - Rep. Jennifer Carroll (for Rick Scott); COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 8 - Eugene Flinn and Lynda Bell; CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 17 - Roderick Vereen; and U.S. SENATE - Congressman Kendrick Meek.
Candidates absent and who did not send a surrogate: GOVERNOR - Alex Sink; CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 17 - Senator Frederica Wilson; U.S. SENATE - Marco Rubio (declined to participate) and Charlie Crist.
Here are our tweets of the forum. Remember they are in reverse chronological order
blogblackmiami Good night everyone. This has been fun. Get out and vote. No excuses.
blogblackmiami Pastor Johnson giving benedictio
blogblackmiami Bishop Curry was acknowledged. He's not speaking tonight.
blogblackmiami Time for the benediction.
blogblackmiami Asked about brokering deal for him to get out of the race. He's not quitting the race. Said we can win this race.
blogblackmiami Joy Ann Reid is an excellent moderator. Meek handling questions well. Will she ask about Stackhouse issue or is that irrelevant now?
blogblackmiami Joy asked about folks who are wavering between him and Crist. Meek runs down list of issues that Crist has not dealt with.
blogblackmiami Meek said he's running because people need good strong representation. Said it's not about him; it's about the people.
blogblackmiami Kendrick Meek is the only candidate present from his race.
blogblackmiami Wow. Quote of the night: "I may walk up here in a suit but I wear many hats too!" --- Rod Vereen
blogblackmiami Wow. Vereen pointed out that Wilson is absent. Said he wants to raise the bar for District 17.
blogblackmiami Vereen said healthcare needs to be tweaked.
blogblackmiami Vereen is speaking quite well.
blogblackmiami Now he's talking about Haiti and Disparity of wet foot dry foot policy. Lots of applause.
blogblackmiami He also said that some employers take advantage of undocumented aliens.
blogblackmiami Supports DREAM Act but thinks illegal aliens should be given an opportunity to take steps to work for citizenship.
blogblackmiami Question about the DREAM Act.
blogblackmiami Median family income in District 17 is $30,000.
blogblackmiami District 17 race. Vereen is here. Wilson is absent.
blogblackmiami Two more races to do.
blogblackmiami A lady is here with a RECALL ALVAREZ petition.
blogblackmiami Half the audience has left.
blogblackmiami Time for the collection. This is for the NAACP.
blogblackmiami That's all from Rev. Al. He has thrown down the gauntlet.
blogblackmiami He's about to close. Kendrick Meek just entered the room.
blogblackmiami We have a genuine opportunity to change history for everyone.
blogblackmiami Rev. Al is cutting up like Katt Williams without the profanity. For real.
blogblackmiami Talking about trying to turn back the clock. Our children are being taught to give up.
blogblackmiami OMG He is cutting up. If folks don't vote after this I don't know what will motivation is required.
blogblackmiami "Don't try to put the man in a box. Let the man be president for everybody!"
blogblackmiami President Obama really needs to take Rev. Al on the road.
blogblackmiami He's covering too much. Can't type that fast. He is breaking it down and connecting dots. Tea Party. State's rights. Wow.
blogblackmiami "Change don't come with one vote!"
blogblackmiami I know a collection is going to be taken after this. He's got folks fired up. LOL
blogblackmiami He's bringing the crowd to their feet.
blogblackmiami Rev. Al is breaking it down about civil rights in the 60's and how we lost because of infighting.
blogblackmiami Rev. Al is way thinner than expected. Speaking of challenges we face today. Talking about us using excuses not to vote.
blogblackmiami A printed program was not distributed so we don't know the order of the program.
blogblackmiami Rev. Sharpton is being introduced.
blogblackmiami Both candidates are now letting us know about their church involvement.
blogblackmiami Bell said the parade was a Veteran's Day Parade for an organization. Said she was set up by her opponent.
blogblackmiami Here comes question about the confederate flag.
blogblackmiami Flinn and Bell are answering questions about cutting the budget. She is more specific.
blogblackmiami Rev. Sharpton is here.
blogblackmiami It's great that both candidates are here because their district is so far south.
blogblackmiami Next up County Commission District 8 candidates.
blogblackmiami It's a little hostile in here for Carroll but she's holding her own.
blogblackmiami SB6: Voted for it.
blogblackmiami Joy Ann Reid is pulling no punches. Carroll gets points for handling herself well.
blogblackmiami Joy Reid does not play when it comes to staying within time limits.
blogblackmiami Looks kind of funky with only one person at the table.
blogblackmiami Amendments on the ballot are being reviewed by moderators. Pros and cons.
blogblackmiami Jennifer Carroll is here representing Rick Scott.
blogblackmiami Rolle continuing to list what he's done in District 2. Monestime supporter escorted out.
blogblackmiami Monestime said he's running because it's time for a change. He said businesses are closing their doors.
blogblackmiami Rolle talked about projects with requirements to hire from the inner city.
blogblackmiami Monestime said we need to develop our business corridors. We have to copy what has happened in other areas.
blogblackmiami Next question about economy and jobs.
blogblackmiami The audience is answering the question. LOL
blogblackmiami Monestime breaking down impact of lobbyists on the election. Remember the question was about term limits.
blogblackmiami Monestime said either Rolle is in denial or he doesn't live in the District.
blogblackmiami Rolle is on the defensive. Accuses Monestime of not knowing the community. Wow.
blogblackmiami Question about term limits. Rolle said term limits are set by the people. If you're doing your job the voters will re-elect you.
blogblackmiami Monestime would bring in independent bodies for recommendations about JMH. Rolle said he is the reason JMH is still open.
blogblackmiami Next question about JMH.
blogblackmiami Monestime pinpointing progress in other areas. This is a debate.
blogblackmiami Elliott Rodriguez has arrived.
blogblackmiami Rolle is on the defensive and is listing his accomplishments. Seems like a debate to me.
blogblackmiami Monestime said his opponent has had 12 years to benefit District 2 and he has failed to do that.
blogblackmiami It's hard to concentrate on the intros because of the individual comments from some of the audience members.
blogblackmiami It's so unfortunate that this was not a debate. The voters really need to hear more to determine which candidate to vote for.
blogblackmiami Up next, County Commission district 2.
blogblackmiami A few digs during the closing remarks. Wow.
blogblackmiami It's getting hot in here!
blogblackmiami Both would vote no on Amendment 8.
blogblackmiami Both agree that students should not have to choose between athletics and academics.
blogblackmiami Are athletics too important in our school system?
blogblackmiami Vangates mentioned need to protect all employees not just teachers.
blogblackmiami Question about crumbling school facilities in District 2.
blogblackmiami Vangates generating a lot of applause for responses. Says vote for her for something different.
blogblackmiami Mindingall wants to bring organizations together to work with our kids. Wants to bring in K-8 center, increase # of Haitian admins, etc.
blogblackmiami Starting off with School Board District 2 candidates. Mindingall and Vangates.
blogblackmiami A lot of energy here. Moderators being introduced. Joy Ann Reid is here. Elliott Rodriguez en route.
blogblackmiami At New Birth Cathedral of Faith. Monica Russo is starting things off. Lower level is almost full. This is not a debate.
Afterthoughts and Comments:
It would have been really beneficial if the community was afforded the opportunity to hear from all of the candidates in all of the races even if forums were scheduled over multiple dates. There are too many importance races and issues on the ballot to cover in one evening and several audience members were disappointed that they did not hear from candidates in addition to those presented.
The audience turnout was great because frequently there are more candidates than attendees at political forums. It is unfortunate that half the audience and moderator Elliott Rodriguez left after Rev. Al Sharpton’s keynote address because they thought the event had concluded. Candidates for the District 17 Congressional Race and U.S. Senate race addressed a crowd that dwindled to less than half the number present before Sharpton took the stage.
Here are some afterthoughts and comments from some of the attendees:
*Lt. Governor candidate Jennifer Carroll
A number of people who attended did not know Rick Scott’s running mate is black and a woman. Some commented that she’s another Sarah Palin but they have not seen her in action. She has benefited from the Republican-dominated politics in Florida and let folks know that she is in a history-making position because no black female has been that close to the highest elected position in Florida. She also made sure folks know she’s Caribbean and has local ties since her husband’s uncle Earl Carroll was the first black county commissioner; her husband is from Miami and their son Nolan II plays for the Miami Dolphins.
Carroll handled some tough questions well in a Democrat-dominated audience. Some in the audience commented that they would prefer to vote for her over Alex Sink and Rick Scott. They went on to say she held her ground when questioned and did not appear to give an answer just to satisfy the audience.
Congressman Meek had this panel to himself as Rubio declined and Crist was a no-show. As expected, Meek was very comfortable in responding to the questions. He reiterated he is in the race and he can win.
*Congressional District 17
Senator Frederica Wilson, widely regarded as a shoo-in, was a no-show. Her opponent, Atty. Roderick Vereen, pointed out that she is a frequent no-show. He also spoke favorably of the previous District 17 representatives and the need to have someone with law-making experience fill that seat. Several attendees were pleased with Vereen’s presentation.
*County Commission District 2
Former North Miami Vice Mayor Jean Monestime is the strongest competition incumbent Dorrin Rolle has faced since he’s been on the Board of County Commissioners. Monestime pointed out the lack of development and need for change in District 2 and Rolle rattled off a list of projects he takes credit for bringing to District 2. This panel seemed a lot more like a debate than a forum and Rolle did appear to be on the defensive at times. One of Monestime’s vocal supporters was escorted from the sanctuary by New Birth security.
*County Commission District 8
Eugene Flinn and Lynda Bell have both led cities in deep south Miami-Dade County and are vying to replace retiring Commissioner Katy Sorenson. Both seemed comfortable although their attempts at justifying their sensitivity to diversity and proclaiming their church involvement came across a little awkward. Bell still has to overcome the flap from the display of the confederate flag at the Veteran’s Day parade in Homestead a couple of years ago. She claims to have been set up by her competitor. Interesting.
*School Board District 2
This race between Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall and Ronda Vangates has been very low profile as far as media coverage but one of the most important races in recent years. Retired educator, administrator and legislator Mindingall has name recognition, UTD endorsement and grassroots community support while Vangates enjoys the backing of retiring school board member Dr. Solomon Stinson, Former County Commissioner Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler and their supporters.
Comments from some attendees are that this race will be very close and others think Mindingall will win by a landslide. Some think Vangates connected more with the audience and others think Mindingall seemed to have a better overall grasp of what the position needs and will better engage parents. Other comments indicated that this race may break down to a battle of the generations also.
In full disclosure, I know both of these candidates and am a former candidate for this seat. I have endorsed Bendross-Mindingall.
Other candidates and elected officials present included Perry Thurston; Dwight Bullard; Cynthia Stafford; Richard Dunn; Alison Austin and Gwen Margolis.
Thank you to everyone who attended the forum and those who followed on Twitter. All registered voters need to get out and vote. Every election is important but just as important as the 2008 election was, 2010 is equally if not more important. Get out and Vote!