BOSTON – After this week's Democratic convention,Florida delegates say they are fired up for an intense fight to elect Sen. John Kerry,D-Mass.,to be the country's next president.
Interviews with five delegates from Florida's District 16,which comprises the state's Treasure Coast,reveal that,while they are angry about the results of the 2000 election,Democrats have learned from the past and become more unified and organized than ever before.
“We really are on a mission,and I think that there's a sense that we owe the country to deliver Florida for Kerry,” said William Jenkins,55,a marketing consultant from Stuart. “We didn't do that last time,and it may have been stolen,but it was stolen because we weren't watching. … That's not going to happen again.”
The delegates said the party is more unified this year than ever before in its effort to defeat President Bush. Several said they had supported Howard Dean or John Edwards in the primaries but are now wholeheartedly behind Kerry.
“When people are determined to get someone out,you can feel the camaraderie. You don't feel as much friction and discord,” said Evett Simmons,a lawyer from Port St. Lucie. “I mean we are focused … not for the sake of just doing in a person but for the sake of getting back our country.”
Recent polls show Florida's voters evenly split between Bush and Kerry. Efforts to win the state will come down to a combination of mobilizing the Democratic base and attempting to persuade the small number of undecided voters to swing in their favor,the delegates said. And they are all confident that Kerry will receive a positive bounce after the convention and win the state.
Asked what issue would be most important to Florida voters,the delegates responded with a flood of answers from education to health care to the war in Iraq. Ultimately,they said,the state of the country and the economy is so tenuous that everything could change before the Nov. 2 election. Because Florida residents represent so many different groups – senior citizens,Hispanic im
migrants,students,military families – one issue is not important to everyone.
“We need to think local,I mean,what do the people want?” said Celeste Bush,52,a delegate from Fort Pierce,who chairs the St. Lucie County Democratic Executive Committee and is not related to the president's family. “When you go to their door they have to have a reason to get up and go vote.
So what issue will provide that reason?
“I don't think we can characterize our area as being monolithic and say that one issue,different constituencies will have different issues,” Jenkins said.
Lucy Garner,59,a homeless and youth family liaison for the Charlotte Public Schools said health care is important to Hispanic voters and that she supports a change in immigration policy.
Howard Conklin,a lawyer from Fort Pierce,said the party is more organized this year and he attended a training session intended to help delegates increase voter turnout when they return home.