The Effect of the Black (Non) Voter on Gubernatorial Elections

In 2000, Florida seemed to have cemented itself into the most-purple of states. A 537-vote win that took a month to finalize sent George W. Bush to the White House. In 2002, the President’s younger brother won re-election handily. Then the President won Florida quite handily. What happened to purple? Florida looks like a nice cherry red.

Looking back, part of the reason for the purple hue in 2000 was a significant turnout by the African-American community. Black leaders worked hard to get black voters to the polls. While I am not trying to re-argue the outcome of the 2000 election, it is clear that without such significant efforts on behalf of the African-American community, Republicans easily won elections in 2002 and 2004.

So what does this hold for 2006?

First, there was an article from the Orlando Sentinel:

If black voters choose to sit out this governor’s race, as … [many] did four years ago, the Tampa congressman doesn’t stand much of a chance against his better-funded, more popular Republican opponent, state Attorney General Charlie Crist.

But if Davis can narrow what a month ago was a double-digit gap in the polls and turn out blacks in numbers close to the 2000 presidential election — when two-thirds of the state’s then-934,000 black voters cast ballots — Democrats could have a shot at reclaiming the Governor’s Mansion.

Since 2000, the number of black voters has continued to grow. As of August, the number of voters who identify themselves as black totaled nearly 1.25 million, making them 12 percent of Florida’s 10.4 million registered voters.

However, the Palm Beach Post Blog had this to say about courting the black vote:

There are few black Republicans — less than 1 percent of all Florida voters, according to state election records. So by necessity, Crist must either peel black Democrats away from Jim Davis, the Democratic nominee, or somehow persuade them to stay home on Election Day.

Strategists for Crist, the state attorney general, also hope that Davis, a Tampa congressman, will be forced to spend more time and money getting out the black vote, thus diluting resources that could be used for other campaign needs, such as reaching out to independent and swing voters.

There was one more interesting bit of news. In today’s Miami Herald article on the Zogby Poll:

Black voters prefer Davis, 47 percent to 28 percent, although 24 percent are undecided. ”That tells me there’s a good chance they’re not going to vote because the Democrat hasn’t turned them on and they’re not even looking at the Republican,” Zogby said. “If [blacks] don’t vote at all, Jim Davis is dead in the water.”

Davis was repeatedly assailed during the primary for voting against restitution for two wrongfully convicted black men when he was in the Florida Legislature in 1990. He tried to shore up support among black voters by choosing a black running mate, former state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami, and by publicly apologizing to Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee for the 1990 vote.

So it would seem that 2006 could be a replay of the 2002 election, a Republican landslide for Charlie Crist. The Zogby Poll showed Crist with a 51% – 30% lead over Davis. Davis isn’t running TV ads yet. The Republican Party has $12 million more than the Democratis Party now.

But the lead could evaporate if the Democratic party is able to push their Lieutenant Governor Candidate, Daryl Jones. By using him heavily in areas with high populations of African-American voters (especially in the Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa Bay areas), it could start turning Florida a bit more of a shade of purple.

But with just over five weeks left in the campaign, will it be enough??

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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