EDITORIAL: The real race is on

Understandably, there’s much excitement and enthusiasm among Caribbean-American Democrats regarding the victory of Andrew Gillum in the August 28 Florida Democratic primary election for governor. Truth be told although Gillum, the Mayor of Tallahassee, was supported by most Caribbean-Americans, there was real doubt he could actually win. But, thanks to Gillum’s masterful ground campaign, this community of voters, and  thousands of other voters across the state, ensured his victory despite massive funds spent by his Democratic challengers.

Caution is urged

However, as sweet as Gillum’s victory is, caution is urged. Winning the primary election is only the first hurdle to Gillum becoming the first black governor of Florida. With that victory complete, now the real race has begun as he competes with Republican nominee Ron DeSantis for state governor.

Democrats lack consistency

One thing supporters of the Democratic Party lack is consistency. They’ll turnout in record numbers as they did in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, but then stay home in other elections. It would have been possible for Florida to have a Democratic governor in 2010, and in 2014 if just a few thousand more voters had turned out to vote for the Democratic Party candidates.

In the joy over Gillum’s victory there’s cause to pause and recognize a stark reality. In the primary elections 1.6 million Republicans voted, compared to 1.4 million Democrats. That certainly isn’t a ‘Blue Wave”. Frankly, Republicans won the popular vote on August 28.

Voters in South Florida, particularly in Broward County, continue to lead the state in support for Democratic Party candidates. But, there’s a whole lot of Florida outside of South Florida. Therefore, every effort must me made by candidates, their campaign associates, and voters to garner statewide support.

Every voter’s right

Of course, every voter has the right to vote for whichever candidate, Democrat or Republican. It’s the right of voters to vote for the candidate that presents the best arguments  for dealing with the issues that most concerned those voters.

Issues concerning Caribbean-American voters

The issues the Caribbean American community are mostly concerned with include: consistent affordable healthcare; realistic living wages; employment; affordable housing; sound public and college education; an immigration policy that doesn’t threaten their status as American legal residents or citizens; a fair, objective justice system;  non-intimidating law enforcement; sensible gun laws, and an environment that doesn’t compromise its health and lifestyle.

The elections in November is about electing the candidates running for governor, US Senate and US House, Florida Legislature, county commissions, state and county courts, and school boards, who can best help the community to deal with these issues positively.

It’s expected that in the existing political intense atmosphere, the campaign for every seat in the November 6 general elections will be fierce. Within hours after Gillum and DeSantis won their respective elections, controversy erupted. There may be caustic allegations and counter allegations among the candidates over the next two months.  But, unfounded allegations must not deter voters from voting for the candidates they are convinced can best represent them if elected.

Discard polls and pundits

And, of course, there’ll be political polls, and political pundits, who’ll be predicting the leaders in every race, and eventual winners on election day. But, increasingly political polls, and the opinions of these pundits are proving unreliable.

Polls predicted Hillary Clinton would win the presidential elections in Florida and nationally by some 5 percentage points. She lost both Florida and nationally. The polls placed Gillum a distant third in the Democratic primary for governor. He won by some 3 percent. In the first week of campaign since the primary elections, polls are showing Gillum with a 3 percent lead. Voters must vote based on their personal convictions and not be persuaded by polls to believe any one candidate is a shoe-in, and think their votes aren’t needed.

Every vote

On November 6, every vote will be needed. The vote of every Caribbean-American, every citizen who is a registered voter will be needed. There is absolutely no excuse not to vote. If one is sick, a shut-in at home or a medical institution, or away from their polling district, one can still vote by requesting and submitting a mail-in vote.

For too long, the issues that concern the Caribbean American community have received scant attention by those in public office. Through the August 28 primary election candidates were nominated to deal with these issues. It’s important that voters in the community be prepared from now to vote heavily for those candidates they are convinced can best address these issues. Just remember the race is not yet won.

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