The Miami Herald
Jul. 15, 2004
GOP courts Haitian Americans
BY LESLEY CLARK AND JACQUELINE CHARLES
Haitian Americans, who have seen their clout rise in the Democratic
Party over the past decade, are now being wooed by Republicans, a sign
of the community's burgeoning political power.
Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, accompanied by
boxing promoter Don King, on Thursday swooped into North Miami -- the
largest city in the country governed by a Haitian American -- to tout
President Bush's record and urge Haitian Americans to the polls.
''I do think there is an opportunity here to get a good chunk of the
Haitian-American vote,'' Gillespie told The Herald. ``There's a sense
that a little healthy competition is good for everybody. To have the
Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee vying for the
African-American vote, as opposed to one side taking it for granted and
the other side not competing vigorously for it, it's good for America.''
Haitian Americans suggest there is room for the GOP to tap into a
growing frustration with the Democratic Party that it doesn't represent
all blacks, although blacks are the party's most loyal voting bloc.
Black voters nearly put Al Gore in the White House with a record
turnout in Florida four years ago. Nationwide, nine of 10 blacks
rejected President Bush in 2000.
Republican strategists think they have an opportunity this year because
they sense that Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, who will need a
massive black turnout, has failed to secure the affections of black
GOP strategists believe they have a chance with Haitian Americans.
Unlike most African Americans, whose allegiance to the Democratic Party
dates back generations, Caribbean Americans are newcomers to American
And Republicans suggest there is a growing number of blacks who are
disaffected with some of the more liberal aspects of the Democratic
Party and are eager to embrace the GOP message of lower taxes and
smaller government. At the same time, the party is looking to
capitalize on the White House's increasing engagement with Haiti.
Democrats scoff at the Republicans' recruitment efforts, suggesting
Bush has done little for blacks. And they note some are still enraged
by the 2000 election, when thousands of black voters in Florida
complained their votes were discarded.
NEW AD CAMPAIGN
Kerry's campaign, criticized for a lackluster effort to reach out to
blacks, announced on Wednesday an African-American ad campaign of
''historic proportions'' and that Barack Obama, a black U.S. Senate
candidate in Illinois, will deliver the keynote address at the
Democratic National Convention.
At the gathering of about 50 Haitian-American business people,
Gillespie touted Gov. Jeb Bush's interest in Haiti. The governor,
criticized during his reelection campaign in 2002 for ignoring Haitian
concerns, met last month with a group of Haitian-American leaders to
discuss the creation of a state task force that will back efforts to
The governor has rejected suggestions that his efforts are politically
motivated, but strategists suggest they'll benefit his brother among
some Haitian Americans.
The administration's stance on immigration remains problematic, though,
and Gillespie largely skirted the issue, referring only to a sweeping
immigration proposal the president is pushing to allow millions of
illegal immigrants working in the United States to become legal
He brushed off questions about an unpopular Bush policy that forces
Haitians fleeing the island to be detained indefinitely while fighting
But he suggested that Haitian Americans are supportive of the
president's efforts to bring stability to Haiti following the ouster of
Haitian President Jean-Bernard Aristide.
''Haitian Americans approve of the president's strong and principled
leadership,'' he said.