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Black lawyers to challenge status quo

caines | 4/26/2012, 5 a.m.

This is shaping up to be an interesting year. There are three Black women running for election this year to be judges: Teretha Lundy Thomas, Tanya Brinkley and Greer Elaine Wallace. Thomas, the first Black woman to win a county-wide election and become a judge, has been challenged by a Cuban attorney, John Rodriguez. Rodriguez is counting on a money advantage and his friends in Hialeah and Miami Lakes. Thomas is betting on 20 years of excellent service as a lawyer and judge. This challenge to a well-respected jurist has many Black lawyers seeing red because it is reminiscent of the repeated challenges to Black judges. Most recently, Judge Shirlyon McWhorter was unseated by a Cuban-American woman, Patricia Marino-Pedraza. Marino-Pedraza was notable because of her lack of experience; she had never tried a jury trial before she became a judge. God must have a sense of humor because now she is being challenged by another Cuban lawyer, Frank Hernandez. Brinkley has taken the plunge and is already running like a veteran. The $180,000 she has raised thus far will make her tough candidate to beat. She is in an open seat against Enrique Yabor. Finally, Wallace, wife of Mayor Otis Wallace, has jumped into the judicial mix against Arthur Spiegel and Andrea Wolfson. Many believe that strong name recognition in South Dade gives her a real chance of winning. In a three-way race, Wallace stands a better chance of winning because the two Jewish candidates will fight over the Jewish vote and she should get all of the Black votes. In a major turn of events, three Black lawyers have challenged State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. Roderick Vereen, past president of the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association and a well-respected criminal defense attorney has jumped into the democratic primary. Michele Samaroo and Omar Malone are write-in candidates. The result will be a closed Democrat primary where registered Black Democrats outnumber registered Hispanic democrats. Vereen could win and become the first Black State Attorney in the State of Florida. Fernandez Rundle has traditionally had strong support among Black voters but it remains to be seen if Blacks will give her the nod or a well-respected Black candidate? Race and ethnicity are critical factors in our countys elections, especially in judicial races. In this case, Fernandez Rundle hits two ethnic constituencies Hispanic and Jews; Vereen will take the Black vote. So it comes down to who will turn out to vote? In the general election with President Obama on the ballot, Black voters will turn out in record numbers. But will they turn out during the primary? Some say voters will turn out strong in the State Attorney race because of the Trayvon Martin case, the number of unprosecuted police shootings of Black men and the anger over the witch hunts of Michelle Spence-Jones and Reverend Gaston Smith. Blacks better vote or be prepared to shut up and bear it for another four years.