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7804: North Miami election results (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Published Wednesday, May 9, 2001

North Miami's election results in pair of runoffs

A Haitian-American candidate won the most votes Tuesday in the North Miami 
mayoral election, but not enough to avoid a runoff against a former City 
Council member who is an African American.

Josaphat Celestin received nearly 44 percent of the vote, closely followed 
by former council member Arthur ``Duke'' Sorey, with 41 percent. Former 
Mayor John Stembridge, a white non-Hispanic, trailed with 15 percent.

Because no one received more than 50 percent, Celestin and Sorey will face 
each other Tuesday. It's a familiar scenario for Celestin, who also ran 
first in the mayoral primary in 1999 but lost to Mayor Frank Wolland in the 

A Haitian American, Jacques Despinosse, and an African American, Tyrone 
Hill, will also compete in the runoff after finishing first and second in 
the four-person race for Council District 3. Incumbent District 2 council 
member Michael Blynn overwhelmingly defeated challenger Lydia Kordalewski.


The results of the mayoral and District 3 races reflect the city's dramatic 
demographic change over the last 10 years. According to the 2000 Census, 
North Miami is now a majority black city, going from 32 percent black in 
1990 to at least 55 percent black in 2000.

No matter who wins the runoffs, the City Council -- four council members and 
the mayor -- will have a black majority, because one of the incumbents who 
didn't face election this year is Haitian-American.

The strong showing by Celestin and Despinosse is the latest sign of the 
growing political clout of Haitian Americans in northeastern Miami-Dade 

It follows the election in November of Democrat Phillip Brutus as Florida's 
first Haitian-American legislator, representing House District 108 in 
northeastern Miami-Dade. The village of El Portal elected a Haitian council 
majority in 1999 and had a Haitian-American mayor in 2000.

Community activists say the North Miami results are an indication of the 
Haitian-American population's increasing strength and of the success of 
recent campaigns encouraging Haitians to become citizens.

``What the election in North Miami is teaching us is America, a nation of 
immigrants, is still giving opportunities to newcomers,'' said Jean 
Lafortune, president of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition.

Celestin, a general builder, has made several runs for office. Besides 
losing to Wolland in 1999, he ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for state 
Senate in 1998 and as a Democrat for state House in 1996.

He campaigned on the theme of bringing North Miami citizens together.


``My win shows that we are trying to stray from this Haitian-American and 
African-American rhetoric which is dividing us,'' Celestin said Tuesday 
night. ``We won today, and we will win tomorrow. We are just getting ready 
for the second round.''

Sorey, a council member from 1995 to 1999, actively courted the Haitian 
vote. He went on Haitian radio programs Tuesday with one of his chief 
supporters, Nadia Pierre, a Haitian activist and Democrat who worked on 
Brutus' campaign.

``Ideology does matter. You cannot compare Democrats and Republicans,'' 
Pierre said. ``I am proud to be a Haitian, but I am also proud to be a 
Democrat. The Democratic Party has always helped Haitians in our time of 

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