Despite being one of South Florida’s fastest growing ethnic groups, Haitian Americans remain hard to find on the political stage in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The community hasn’t gained the clout seen in Miami-Dade Countyor achieved by other minority groups in this region, though 140,000 Broward and Palm Beach County residents now identify themselves as Haitian — nearly twice the number registered in the 2000 census.
In Broward, no Haitian Americans are serving as city or county commissioners. In Palm Beach County, there is one state representative, who is currently running for a state Senate seat, and a Haitian American city commissioner in Delray Beach.
In this heated election year, the tide may be shifting. More Haitian Americans are running in high-profile local races. Efforts are under way to get more Haitian Americans registered to vote and engaged in the political process. Groups such as Haitians for Obama and Haitian-American Republican caucuses are mobilizing.
In South Florida and across the country, the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network is working to establish connections among all elected members of state legislatures and local governments who are of Haitian descent.
In 2012, Palm Beach County could elect its first Haitian-American state senator if state Rep. Mackerson “Mack” Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, who is running in District 27, wins that seat. Also, Miami physician Rudy Moise is making a bid for the U.S. House and challenging U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, in an upcoming primary in a district that encompasses sections of Hollywood, Miramar and Pembroke Pines.
However, it won’t be easy replicating the political successes notched by Haitian Americans in Miami-Dade, observers say. For one thing, unlike in Miami and its environs, Haitians in Broward and Palm Beach counties tend to be scattered throughout different cities, making it difficult to achieve the strength in numbers they have in places such as North Miami.
There are other factors, including local Haitian Americans vying for the same elected offices, which divides community support. Fundraising also can be a problem, with some candidates or would-be candidates reporting they can’t raise the same level of funds as their
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