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8585: GOP gaining Haitian voters (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Published Thursday, July 5, 2001

GOP gaining Haitian voters
Broward group forming a club

If you've been to a Broward County Republican Party meeting or fundraiser, 
then you've seen Lucy Orlando.

In a crowd of mostly white faces, she's the large, dark-skinned woman with 
the thick accent of her native Haiti and the unbridled enthusiasm of a high 
school cheerleader.

``She is the most exuberant person,'' said Georgette Sosa Douglass, 
president of the Broward Republican Hispanic Club. ``She hoots and hollers 
and stands up. Of course that kind of excitement is contagious.''

Until now, Orlando has been attending meetings of the Hispanic and Weston 
Republican clubs, as well as countywide party functions.

But Saturday, she will launch her own club, the Haitian-American Republican 
Caucus, which aims to register more Republican voters, support GOP 
candidates and lobby for Haiti. The event will be at 4 p.m. at the Weston 
Regional Health Park, 2300 N. Commerce Parkway.

The keynote speaker will be Haitian-American Mayor Josaphat Celestin, the 
newly elected mayor of North Miami. Celestin's victory in the predominantly 
Democratic city came despite his Republican Party membership and was seen as 
a sign of the growing political clout of the Haitian community.

Orlando, who worked on his campaign, claims to have convinced hundreds of 
Haitian-Americans in South Florida to switch their party registration from 
Democratic to Republican in the past several months.

``They've been told that if you are black, you can't be a Republican,'' 
Orlando said.

She talked about politics in the living room of her Weston home while 
flipping through a scrapbook of pictures of her at President George W. 
Bush's inauguration and at a GOP fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale with Gov. Jeb 

She criticized former President Bill Clinton for giving financial aid to 
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom she said has not done enough 
to help poor people and reduce violence. She also complained that the 
``wet-foot, dry-foot'' policy toward Cuban migrants -- which allows them to 
stay in the United States if they reach land -- does not apply to Haitians.

``They should be treated the same,'' Orlando said.

The 57-year-old retired nurse moved to Weston four years ago. She previously 
lived in New York City and worked on Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's 
campaign. She said her interest in politics was sparked by her father, a 
longtime mayor of Ouanaminthe in Haiti. His brother and nephew were also 
mayors on the island, she said.

The Republican Party has been struggling against the perception that it does 
not welcome racial and ethnic minorities. Ana Gomez Mallada, vice president 
of the Broward Republican Hispanic Club, said the new Haitian club ``sends a 
message that the Republican Party is the party for the people who work 
really hard and hate to see money misspent.''

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