Is the Florida Democratic Party Victimizing Haitian Legislators With Political 'Ethnic Cleansing'?

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: September 6, 2012 3:55 AM
Mack Bernard and Jeff Clemens

Rep. John Patrick Julien and Rep. Mack Bernard | Credit: myfloridahouse.gov

As two Florida Democratic state representatives contest their recent primary election defeats through the courts, a political consultant from one of the state's major bipartisan consulting firms suggests the Haitian legislators might be the victims of a political "ethnic cleansing" by their own party officials.

The two legislators challenging the outcome of their primary races in heavily Democratic districts are Rep. Mack Bernard of West Palm Beach and Rep. John Patrick Julien of North Miami. Both are immigrants from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and both have cultivated a reputation for being friendly to small businesses and school choice. Both received endorsements from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Julien was even endorsed by Florida Right to Life.

Bernard and Julien lost their primaries by razor-thin margins -- 17 and 13 votes respectively -- to opponents who had reportedly received the tacit backing of the Democratic Party establishment. Both winners are running unopposed in the November general election.

The two candidates are alleging voter fraud, and are being represented in their suits by attorney and former state representative J.C. Planas, a Republican. Bernard filed his suit Friday, and Julien filed his on Tuesday, both in the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, in Leon County.

Jeff Clemens

Jeff Clemens

Bernard’s suit alleges that at least 48 absentee ballots cast for Bernard were improperly discarded by the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections' office headed by Democratic Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. If counted, they would swing the election in favor of Bernard, who otherwise lost the primary to Rep. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth. Both ran for Florida Senate District 27.

"The right to vote is perhaps the most fundamental liberty enjoyed by citizens in a democratic society," the lawsuit says. "When election officials improperly and thus illegally discard ballots without following the law or the previously approved consistent standards they have set in the past, they have the result of disenfranchising the electorate."

"Mack Bernard and his Republican lawyer are ridiculously cherry-picking invalid ballots to try to litigate an already certified election," said Kevin Cate, a spokesman for the Clemens campaign, in a statement. "Counting invalid ballots, several of which were signed by the same person, is absurd. The ballots were counted, recounted, and hand counted – Jeff Clemens won every time."

In an interview with Sunshine State News, Planas expressed his disgust with the Clemens campaign’s highlight of the Miami attorney’s political affiliation.

“I am dismayed and insulted that the Democratic Party would make an issue of a former Republican member of the state House representing Mack,” Planas said. “Ironically, when I was an elected official, my attorney was Ron Meyer, who is presently representing my client’s opponent, Jeff Clemens. Attorneys take cases based not on party politics, but on their duty to the law.”

Planas insists he was approached by Bernard himself, and not a third party, to represent his former colleague. “Mack is a friend of mine; we served in the House together,” explained Planas. “The beauty of elections law is there are not that many people who practice it. There’s just not that many attorneys to call upon for cases like these. Mack asked, and I agreed to represent him.”

Julien’s suit alleges a different kind of fraud: that his primary opponent, Rep. Barbara Watson of Miami Gardens, made use of “boleteros,” or ballot brokers, to collect fraudulent or manipulated absentee ballots from at least 16 senior citizens. Both Democrats are incumbents fighting for the same Florida House seat, where they both ended up because of recent legislative redistricting. 

“Upon information and belief, many of the resident voters of the respective medical facilities in precincts 123 and 130 did not actually cast their own absentee ballots and/or had their right to vote stolen from them through fraud and deceit,” that complaint alleges.

A consultant for one of Florida’s major bipartisan political consulting firms told Sunshine State News, on background, that “there is absolutely no question” that both of the Haitian legislators’ primary opponents were supported by the Democratic establishment and their financial backers.

“The people that control the checkbook of that party are trial lawyers and the teachers' unions,” the consultant said.

“The biggest group that departs from rank-and-file Democrats are minorities when it comes to school choice issues,” the consultant explained. “Many of them attend urban public schools that are underperforming and don’t have the resources of wealthier schools in the same district. Most of these parents believe that private school vouchers are their children’s best shot for a better tomorrow. But opposition to vouchers is the Holy Grail for the teachers' unions.

“That’s why you get these contests with two Democrats who agree with each other 95 percent of the time, and more or less toe the party line, but Bernard and Julien still get characterized as hacks for [Florida Republican Gov.] Rick Scott,” he continued. “It’s a kind of ethnic cleansing of the Democratic Party, centered on the interests of the teachers' unions.”

The consultant noted the similarities between the two primary races, and suggested that Democratic officials were operating according to a double standard.

“You’ve got two Democratic primary elections: both very close, both involving Haitian candidates in districts with large Haitian-American communities, and both involving concerns about votes being counted and even voter disenfranchisement,” he said. “I don’t know that it’s racial, but it sure is an interesting coincidence.

“There’s a bit of a hypocrisy and irony here: the same Democratic Party that spends all of its time screaming and hollering [racism charges] at Rick Scott for wanting to purge the voter rolls of felons and noncitizens who should not be registered to vote ... These same folks don’t say anything about the serious charges of minority Democrats not having their votes counted in their own party’s primary,” he continued. “Party officials just sit back quietly and claim this is a Republican conspiracy. So, it’s a Republican conspiracy against minorities to purge the rolls of ineligible voters, and it’s also a Republican conspiracy when you insist on counting the votes of eligible registered Democrats?  Where’s the consistency?” 

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews, or at (850) 727-0859

Comments (7)

1:16PM SEP 10TH 2012
The Chairwoman of the Democratic Party, Florida's Debbie Wasserman Schultz says that it was just a technical error when the DNC took out Jerusalem and God from the platform.

But she has been caught before in bald-faced lies. Now Al Jazeera reports that a woman who is the head of Arab Americans for Obama was lobbying for those changes and it was not accidental.

in Florida, several Democratic leaders have been lying to the public, because they can't stand on the President's record of failure. But these ridiculous and obvious lies just add to those failures.
8:51PM SEP 6TH 2012
Democrats mistreat Haitians all the time in South Florida. They do not even acknowledge us. We have turned to many Republicans who have supported us. People such as Illeana Ros-Lehtinen have done more for our community than any democrat.
9:30PM SEP 6TH 2012
Guess that's why they vote 95% for Democrats.
7:38PM SEP 6TH 2012
Pathetic journalism. Using a clearly partisan "secret" source to demonize a party they obviously don't agree with.

Now if they used the words "slut" and "prostitute" we'd know this "consultant" was Limbaugh. But's it's more intelligent than Rush.

Now, who else might consider themselves a "consultant"? Hmm . . . . . probably Ann Coulter, but she wouldn't bother to make a case. There are several other Florida self-made shrill partisans, but I don't actually expect they had anything to do with this.

Just more partisan continuation of the politics of the "Big Lie" - - secretly say what you want without fear of exposure and becoming known as a liar.

No facts - - that's what so disturbing about the lack of journalistic ethics here, especially from someone who should know what ethics are by this time in his career.

No facts have been presented here that would stand up in court to prove that the "Florida Democratic Party IS Victimizing Haitian Legislators With Political 'Ethnic Cleansing' " and committing racial discrimination.

Maybe like Erich von Dan-iken, all you're capable of doing is asking conspiratorial questions that have no basis in reality once looked at closely enough.

So, once again, Shame, Shame, Eric Giunta!
3:04PM SEP 6TH 2012
As a lifelong Democrat this seems wrong. Since 2000 many of us have fought year after year to make sure all votes get counted. We are the party of inclusion, we can't start acting like Republicans. They should count these votes.
Why? Because every vote counts now and especially in November when we need to re-elect President Obama!
Will Foote
8:08AM SEP 6TH 2012
The election loss of two Haitian American legislators came at the hands of the Republicans who "intentionally" drew district boundaries that would pit the Haitian Americans against other Democratic legislators in Democratic districts that really don't appreciate Democrats that voted like republicans! Shame on republicans ...again and Sunshine State News for bias coverage!
Richard Thomas
7:37AM SEP 6TH 2012
An outrageous quote that is used in the headline is found 16 paragraphs into the story... and it comes from an anonymous "political consultant"? Sunshine State News is pathetic. Your credibility is zero.

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