- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2000

Republicans did not intimidate black voters in heavily black voting districts in Miami, says a former political candidate from the northeast quadrant of the city.
But Democrats were very much pressuring voters, asserts Reggie Thompson, 45, who was running for state representative in state District 108, which covers North Miami, Miami Shores and parts of Liberty City. The district is 30 percent Haitian, 35 percent black and 35 percent white and Hispanic.
He was so disheartened by Democratic behavior at the polls that he is founding a political group he calls the Underground Railroad to "deliver African-Americans from the bonds of liberalism."
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced this week that it will investigate accusations of voter intimidation in Florida, in response to a complaint by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Mr. Thompson doubts the commission will discover anything.
As a candidate, he had to hire workers many of them Democrats to help distribute his literature in 33 precincts that make up District 108 on Election Day. Judging from their reports, he said, if anyone was harassed, it was people trying to vote Republican.
"The Bush campaign asked for volunteers, but in heavily black areas, you aren't going to get very many takers," he said. "The literature is not what is so important, it's the presence. A lot of people don't know what candidate they will vote for when they get [to the polls], so if you have nine to 10 Democrats hovering around you, saying, 'Don't vote for those Republicans, they're evil,' what are the chances of you voting Republican?
"Especially if there are no Republicans around. Some of my workers got cursed out for passing out my literature. One white woman worker at one of my precincts got material snatched out of her hands."
He scoffs at charges of voter harassment in a district that is 77 percent Democratic.
"How could they talk about what Republicans were doing?" he asks. "We had no Republican observers manning the precincts there. There were 10 to 15 Democratic workers at those precincts, but no Republicans."
Mr. Thompson lost the election to Democrat Phillip J. Brutus by a margin of 22,200 to 4,400. Mr. Brutus is the first Haitian-American elected to the Florida Legislature. Had Mr. Thompson won, he would have been the second black Republican since Reconstruction to be elected to the Legislature.
District 108 was formed in 1992 as a result of redistricting from 1990 census figures. Until this year, the Republican Party had never offered a candidate for the seat and declined to send Mr. Thompson money, waiting to see how he did on his own. With a $1,000 contribution from one Republican group, Mr. Thompson still managed to raise about $17,000 on his own yet it was still one-fifth of the money his opponent raised.
Although the Miami Times, a black paper, ignored him, and Haitians, he says, would not let him
speak on their radio stations, he did have the help of the Rev. Phipps St. Hilaire, a Haitian-born Republican and a significant party operative in South Florida. Mr. St. Hilaire accompanied Mr. Thompson on visits to Haitian housing projects in the 108th District.
"The Democrats take the black community for granted, so they tell us what they want to tell us whether or not they follow through," Mr. Thompson says. "The Republicans ask, 'Why invest any resources in the black community?' "
A 1977 Naval Academy graduate, a former pastor and a social worker, Mr. Thompson hopes to run again for office.
"There's a lot of work that needs to be done by the Underground Railroad," he said. "For people to be receptive to a Republican candidate, a lot more information needs to get out there."

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