Connecting with people The old-fashioned way
Just to gain a final few minutes of face time and a few more hands to shake, candidates braved hours of waiting time along with tired voters.
As early as 7:30 a.m., the precinct at 18th Street and Brickell Avenue in Downtown Miami had waiting times pushing six hours. This important location in the district attracted a wide variety of candidates along with throngs of voters.
“I noticed that there was a lack of absentee and early voters in this precinct,” said John Couriel, who is running for the State Senate of District 35. “I went where the voters were.”
Brickell was his fifth of about 10 precincts and possibly the most important that he planned to visit on Election Day. Couriel said that his campaign, which focuses on energy, enthusiasm and policy, is best displayed by his personal engagement.
“It’s a great civic experience when a lot of people engage me in policy discussion,” he said. “That’s what democracy is all about.”
Couriel was a former federal prosecutor handling Medicare fraud cases, which he labeled “the worst plague” in our community.
“I had never been interested in politics before, but I got tired of screaming at my television,” Couriel said. “People call me a moderate, but I just want to govern. I say things that disappoint both sides.”
A few moments later, Luis Garcia, who is running for Miami-Dade County Commissioner of District 5, approached the line in his “#85” studded-shirt. He connected with the crowd from a human level, asking each person about his or her issues. Garcia said he connects with people “the old fashion way” rather than spending money on campaigning. He added that education in South Florida was one of his key concerns.
“The history of Florida policy is to gut public education and I’m against that,” Garcia said. “I voted against taking money from public schools and giving it to the private sector.”
Garcia also discussed domestic partnerships, another of his campaign themes.
“I was part of the Miami Beach legislation, the first legislation, to support domestic partnerships,” he said. “I have a gay son and I’d fight to the death for him. He deserves the same rights as everyone else.”
The candidates and voter interest in the issues kept record-setting numbers in the Brickell line, according to NBC South Florida. A few people fled the line after hours of waiting and 28-year-old attorney Brian Kelley explained that those lost votes could hurt some candidates more than others.
“If I were Bill Nelson, I’d be upset,” he said. “Connie Mack is going to get the support from up north and without the help of his southern democratic supporters, Nelson is going to be in trouble if people keep leaving.”
Kelley added that the impoact of voter discouragement with long lines will extend beyond this election.
“What worries me is that it hurts the future of voting for this area. People will remember this election and potentially decide not to vote next time.”