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Blacks face stiff competition in North Miami elections

Former mayor faces two Haitian candidates in upcoming election

7/10/2014, 9 a.m.
The Black vote in North Miami’s mayoral race will be tested next month when a formidable candidate will pose a ...

The Black vote in North Miami’s mayoral race will be tested next month when a formidable candidate will pose a major challenge to other candidates from the city’s large Haitian population.

With scandals rocking city hall, many believe the political climate is ripe for former mayor Kevin Burns to win the special election and become mayor of North Miami for a third time.

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Burns

He will once again face two candidates from whom he grabbed a higher percentage of the vote in the 2013 mayoral election. The challengers are Dr. Smith Joseph, a physician who practices in North Miami and Jean Rodrigue Marcellus, a former District 3 councilman who stepped down last year to run for mayor.

All three candidates are seeking to replace Mayor Lucille Tondreau, who was suspended from office after she was charged with wire fraud in an $8 million mortgage scheme in May.

In the regular election, Burns easily came out on top against Joseph and Marcellous, grabbing 33 percent of the

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Joseph

vote. Joseph received 23 percent of the vote and Marcellus received just 6 percent. He has a good chance of doing that again when the special election is held Aug. 26. and if that happens, Burns will become the first non-Black mayor since 2009.

With Tondreau’s problems and recent scandals involving city officials, many of North Miami’s weary voters may turn to Burns to help clean up and restore integrity at city hall.

“I'm seeing as I go door-to-door that people are fed up with the negative headlines,” said Burns. “People are very frustrated and embarrassed by what they have experienced in North Miami.”

Burns soundly defeated current Miami-Dade County District 2 Commissioner Jean Monestime twice when the two ran for North Miami Mayor in 2005 and 2007. In the runoff election in 2005, Burns captured 58 percent of the vote and in the 2007 runoff race, Burns got 54 percent.

But Burns’ would have to defeat a fiercely loyal Black and Haitian voter population that has become a dominant force in city politics in recent years. About 35 percent of the city’s 60,000 residents are Haitian. Blacks account for 15 percent. The current city council is predominately Haitian. Burns will also once again face the power of Haitian radio stations who galvanized Haitian voters enough to help Tondreau defeat Burns in 2013.

Nearly 28,500 registered voters are in North Miami, according to the city’s voting records from the last mayoral election. Despite low turnout at the polls, (between 19 to 25 percent) Haitian candidates still have emerged as winners in the city’s recent political races.

But with the scandals involving Pierre and Tondreau, Haitian candidates need a larger voter turnout to guarantee a win this time around. But the threat of a non-Black in the mayoral seat may produce a high voter-turnout as did in Tondreau’s case.

But Burns remains optimistic about winning the race for mayor.

"I think it's going to come down to which candidate will be best one to do the job," Burns said.