Mission accomplished: Miami Times political forum informs voters

mcneir | 8/8/2012, 9:25 a.m.

Some of the candidates were lackluster while others were all fired up but in the end it was the voters from Miami-Dade County that benefited from the two-day political forum sponsored by The Miami Times on July 26th and 27th. Every candidate for each race was not invited to speak a decision that was made, in part, based on suggestions from our readers. The goal was to include as many political races as possible and to allow those candidates that our readers continue to talk about to present their platforms. Candidates who did not speak were allowed to introduce themselves to the audience on both nights and to participate in the meet and greet receptions that followed at the close of each evening. Based on the attendance, the forum was something for which Black voters had been searching. On Thursday, July 26th, State Senate 39, County Commission District 9 and four state representative seats, 107, 108, 109 and 117, were featured. In the senate race, Dwight Bullard and Ron Saunders both performed admirably in what came down to a stalemate of sorts. Bullard is clearly the education candidate while Saunders is the man most prepared to deal with budgets. In the race for the newly-drawn District 107, John Patrick Julien, the incumbent, squared off against State Rep. Barbara Watson both pointing fingers at the other. And while both agreed that bringing jobs to the District was their priority, Julien admitted that making the promise was much easier than actually securing the jobs. The threesome of candidates for District 108 confirmed the conundrum that voters face as they prepare to go to the polls. Daphne Campbell has gotten bogged down with legal issues that could force her to resign now or in the future. Meanwhile, Alix Desulme held no punches in blasting Campbells record of attendance and voting. Santangelo was less effective but still managed to share his platform. In District 117, Kionne McGhee was inspiring as per usual and continued to share his story of overcoming the odds as a preamble to what he believes he can accomplish in Tallahassee. Candidate Harold Ford James, was taken to task on his not being more involved in his community. But Ford said he tends to do things more quietly than McGhee. For a moment, things got tense but the two later relaxed and returned to their own platform issues. Alice Pena was unimpressive in her words to the audience. She is the Braman-supported candidate that seeks to unseat longtime County Commissioner Dennis Moss. Moss, not known for being particularly boisterous, was fired up and ready to talk about what his years of service and his accomplishments as well as what he hopes to continue to do. State Rep. Cynthia Stafford was all alone as her opponent, Bernadine Bush, said she had a previous engagement. But Stafford presented her platform and answered questions posed by the moderator as if there were a slate of candidates seated next to her. She was on point and ready. Day Two The audience was about 150 in total on day one but that number increased by at least another 100 on day two. There were few seats left when Frederica Wilson, the incumbent and candidate for Congress District 24, began her remarks. It could have been a love fest for Wilson, who clearly had the support of the audience. Her opponent, Dr. Rudy Moise, did not attend, claiming he had another speaking engagement. As was expected, things got a bit nasty when Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Rod Vereen took to the mic, seeking to persuade voters that each was the best candidate for Miami-Dade state attorney. You can check out our video to form your own opinion. From our vantage point, we believe the voters would have been better served if both candidates had said more about their plans for the office. Instead, we were subjected to overzealous finger-pointing, particularly from the challenger. Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor for the grio and an MSNBC correspondent, co-moderated on Friday evening, along with D. Kevin McNeir, senior editor, The Miami Times. In the race for county commission District 1, Barbara Jordan, the incumbent, and challenger Shirley Gibson, went after each other with great gusto. Both were prepared and frequently went on the attack. It was one of the more exciting moments of the evening as neither woman was willing to back down. The three invited candidates for county commission District 3 Alison Austin, Audrey Edmonson and Keon Hardemon all presented pretty much the same platforms. Austin was crisp and concise in her comments. And Hardemon showed why he has been successful as an attorney in the courtroom he has the gift of gab that makes for an effective lawyer and politician. Edmonson has presented herself more effectively in other venues but she managed to take control when things heated up, effectively using statistics to confirm the work she has done for her district. In the two mayoral races, Oliver Gilbert, candidate for Miami Gardens mayor, outpaced his opponents. His kept his comments simple but he addressed the issues with ease. As for the Miami-Dade county mayor, Gimenez seemed to wish that he was somewhere else. That was unfortunate because Joe Martinez took the microphone in hand and began to walk and talk. He was much more comfortable and a lot more believable. If you missed the forum, you can see video excerpts from Friday night on our website, www.miamitmiesonline.com. By D. Kevin McNeir kmcneir@miamitimesonline.com