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5462: Haiti native's House victory makes history (fwd)

From: Bryan Wharram <bwharram@med.umich.edu>

Published Wednesday, November 8, 2000, in the Miami Herald 

 Haiti native's House victory makes history


 Near-perfect turnout in several Little Haiti precincts catapulted Democrat Phillip J.
 Brutus into the Florida house and made the Port-au-Prince native the first
 Haitian-American state legislator in Florida and only the second in the country.

 Brutus, a 42-year-old attorney, rolled to an easy victory in majority Democratic
 District 108 over two political neophytes: Republican Reggie Thompson, a pastor
 and social worker, and Jesus Camps, a management consultant with no party

 Early results for the Miami-Dade County district showed Brutus with more than 80
 percent of the vote, with Thompson at 18 percent and Camps at 2 percent.

 A victorious Brutus declared he would represent the full diversity of District 108,
 which includes sizable Haitian-American, African-American and predominantly
 gay neighborhoods as well as pockets of seniors and Hispanics.

 ``It's daunting, and not just because I represent the aspirations of the Haitian
 community,'' Brutus said. ``I will be representing a diverse district, and it will be
 daunting to satisfy the different needs and views.''

 But Brutus' victory was sealed by Haitian Americans, many of them first-time
 voters, who were urged on Creole-language radio and television to vote.

 ``We had no voice,'' said Claude Charmant, 69, a retired accountant, who walked
 over a mile from his El Portal home to vote. ``We feel that we are part of this
 country now.''

 Leaders of the Haitian-American community held citizenship and voter-registration
 drives and put together voter-education seminars. They also pushed the county to
 add Creole-language ballots and Creole-speaking poll workers.

 Coming out in surprising numbers, poll watchers said, were the American-born
 sons and daughters of immigrants from Haiti, such as Sonya Polycarpe, whose
 mother is from Port-au-Paix.

 ``Haitian Americans do have a voice, even though it's small,'' said Polycarpe, 27,
 a medical assistant from North Miami. ``And it's a voice that will grow in coming

 Brutus inherited the seat vacated by Democrat Beryl Roberts-Burke, who was
 forced out by term limits. Brutus lost a bid for the seat two years ago by just 51

 His volunteers blanketed the district. Kerline Florvin, 25, volunteered to hand out
 campaign literature at Miami Shores Recreation Center.

 ``That's my country boy,'' she said.