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5462: Haiti native's House victory makes history (fwd)
From: Bryan Wharram <email@example.com>
Published Wednesday, November 8, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Haiti native's House victory makes history
BY DANIEL A. GRECH
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
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.