FT. LAUDERDALE - Despite political polls showing large gains by the Republican Party will make large gains in Congress in the general election, a new report by a well-regarded think-tank says that Kendrick Meek and other Democrats can retain Congress if black voters show up at the polls with the same energy as they did to propel Barack Obama to victory in 2008.
The report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said political polls this campaign season overlook the opinions black voters. In several states, African and Caribbean Americans make up a sizable segment of the population. Those states, including Florida, favored Barack Obama in the presidential election two years ago.
Meek, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, points to Obama’s victory and the gains made because of the black vote. He is making an historic run to become the first black senator to represent the Sunshine State. The black vote is a key part of that equation.
"I'm not here on behalf of the CEOs of the world. I'm for everyday people who work hard day in and day out," said Meek. "If folks mobilize and tell their family and friends that we need a senator who stands up for them, not the special interests, we win."
The Joint Center report noted that in Florida, blacks comprised 58.5 percent of the voter turnout in 2008, and 37 percent in 2006. Overall turnout across the state was 63.8 percent and 44.2 percent respectively. Those figures show that the black vote makes a difference.
The Center, based in Washington, D.C., is the country’s leading think-tank on black life. Historically, black voters turn out at lower rates than white counterparts, especially during mid-term elections. However, authors of the report say, that during the 1998 mid-terms, the black vote “turned out in strong numbers and had a major impact on the outcome of the mid-term elections” in support of President Bill Clinton, who at that time was under attack by congressional Republicans.
In 1998, the gap between black and white turnout decreased to 3.7 percent nationally and to three-tenths of a percentage point in Southern states.
Because of the heavy black turnout, the report says, Democrats won five additional House seats – the first time in 50 years for an incumbent president.
“It is clear from this analysis that we have not reached the final chapter of the election story in many key states and congressional districts, and that African-American voters could end up being the authors of events if they match their turnout rates from other recent mid-term elections,” said Ralph B. Everett, president and CEO of the Joint Center.
Meek, known as a fighter and champion for the middle class, is campaigning for an open U.S. Senate seat. He is known for his longstanding support of progressive causes that benefit working people.
He also hopes to become the first black person to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate. Meek has strong support from President Obama, Vice President Biden and U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Corrine Brown.
Meek served in the Florida House from 1995 to 1998 and in the Senate from 1999 to 2002.
His mother, former Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek, says her son is ready for the job.
“He has what Florida needs in a Senator – heart and the good sense to do what's right ,” she said. “His whole career, Kendrick has fought for those who need it most – kids, teachers, firefighters – anyone trying to improve their community."