McBride focuses on black voters
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 30, 2002 at 11:38 p.m.
TAMPA - Bill McBride has started a push to reach black voters to ensure a large voter turnout in his attempt to oust Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in November.
McBride received the endorsement Monday from members of the Legislative Black Caucus at St. Paul's AME Church in downtown Tampa, a day after he visited six black churches in St. Petersburg in an attempt to reach out to voters who still may not know who he is.
"In this kind of election, it's important for candidates to get people to know who they are," McBride said. "That's what I'm doing."
And McBride needs to move quickly to get his name out there leading up to the Nov. 5 general election.
McBride won the Democratic nomination despite losing decisively to Reno in South Florida, still the party's geographic base. He remains virtually unknown to many rank-and-file black voters.
"McBride is a comeback kid, the surprise victor," said State Rep. Phillip Brutus, D-Miami. "I think Floridians are discovering him right now."
Bush was slightly ahead of McBride in poll released Sunday, the second in a week that showed the Tampa lawyer within striking distance.
Political scientist Lance deHaven-Smith of Florida State University said Bush needs to worry about a large turnout in the black community.
"Normally you'd expect to see 90 percent of African-Americans vote for the Democratic candidate," he said.
But the survey, conducted for The Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times, showed Bush with a surprisingly high 24 percent of the black vote compared to 65 percent for McBride.
The governor won only 14 percent of that vote in his 1998 election. But the poll's margin of error for a subgroup of voters such as blacks is 10 percentage points.
"We've got a good record and we're going to advertise in the African-American community and campaign," Bush said in Tallahassee Monday.
Black caucus members dismissed the poll.
"That poll talked to 800 people. We represent 5.5 million people," said State Sen. Les Miller, D-Tampa.
McBride said the poll still showed a majority of black voters supported him.
"Those aren't bad numbers," he said. "I just want people to know who I am and what I care about."
David Niven, a Florida Atlantic University political scientist, said he expects Bush to get less than 10 percent of the black vote.
"The polls right now are not fully determinative of what we'll see in November," Niven said. McBride "will be nearly universally known by voters by Election Day. He's not quite there yet."
McBride was joined Monday by members of the black caucus, including Miller, Brutus and state Reps. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa and Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.
All cited how McBride's former law firm, under his leadership, represented the survivors and descendants of the Rosewood massacre in an effort to win reparations. State lawmakers in 1993 gave descendants of the predominantly black Gulf Coast town $2.1 million in reparations for the 1923 massacre that left it in ashes.
"To help people - and to particularly go back and right a wrong - very few people have an opportunity to do that," McBride said.
Miller said that McBride "has a bond to Florida's African American community that Jeb Bush can only envy."
"Jeb Bush is accomplished at talking the talk. When it comes to civil rights and fighting for everyone, Bill McBride has walked the walk," Miller said.
Miller was especially critical of the governor's One Florida program, which eliminates race-based admission policies in the state's higher-education institutions and minority state-contract set-asides.
"He's done away with affirmative action," Miller said. "What has he done to show African-Americans that he deserves their vote?"
Bush campaign spokesman Todd Harris said that the governor has consistently reached out to the black community and would continue to do so. He is meeting with black ministers in Orlando this weekend.
Joyner said that the black community will turn their support to McBride.
"He has a tremendous record of accomplishments," Joyner said. "He represents the change that black folks think are important."
And, Joyner said, black voters who felt disenfranchised during the 2000 election that put Bush's brother in the White House are still angry.
"People still want Jeb out, and there's some anger there to motive people," she said.
Also, McBride and running mate Tom Rossin held a fund-raiser Monday night for about 400 people at the Florida Aquarium, where they expected to raise about $200,000.
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