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Joe Biden Courts Senior, Black, Jamaican Vote In Pembroke Pines, Miramar

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made two stops in Broward on Tuesday.

Biden appeared Tuesday afternoon at the Southwest Focal Point Senior Center in Pembroke Pines to deliver his vision for older Americans. The campus is home to hundreds of seniors who live independently.

In the age of COVID, the audience was limited to 10 invited guests.

Later he attended a drive-in "voter mobilization" event in Miramar, the Biden campaign said. Only about 100 cars were allowed.

In Florida, nearly 10 million voters participate in elections which are often decided by a mere percentage point.

Miramar's population is 46% Black and is home to one of the largest populations of Jamaican Americans in the United States.

While Broward Democratic voters are eager to beat President Donald Trump, some are even more energized to turn out to support California Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden's running mate whose father is Jamaican.

"The fact she has a lineage means you are going to see a lot of Jamaicans voting even if they were not doing so before," said Antoinette Henry, director of corporate relations at the Dutch Pot Jamaican Restaurant, a company with several locations in South Florida. "Part of Jamaica will be in the White House."

Florida has more than 974,000 people of West Indian ancestry — a Caribbean category that excludes Hispanic nationalities such as Cuban. That total includes more than 300,000 Jamaicans and more than 530,000 Haitians, according to census figures.

A conservative estimate for the number of Jamaican voters in Florida stands at 91,000, because many may not report Jamaica as their country of origin. Haitian voters are estimated at about 115,000.

"These naturalized citizens vote. They turn out," said Dan Smith, a University of Florida political science professor. "We also know that there is a lot of mobilization that goes on in these communities."

Laura Uribe, who is getting her doctorate in political science at the University of California, San Diego, has closely studied five immigrant groups in Broward County. She said 77% of voters of Jamaican origin are Democrats whereas 3% are Republican and 20% have no party affiliation. In the last presidential election, 78% of Jamaican-American voters turned out to vote, while the total turnout was about 66%.

"I can tell you Kamala is in the tongue of everyone. They are talking about what must be done to make sure we deliver for the team of Biden and Sen. Harris," said Jamaican-born Hazelle Rogers, the mayor of Lauderdale Lakes who in 1996 became Florida's first Jamaican to be elected to office. "We are so proud, and we know that we must deliver."

Harris, whose mother was an Indian immigrant, appeared last month on a Caribbean weekly radio show that airs in South Florida. She was interviewed by a Jamaican American lawyer with political aspirations and told him that her favorite Jamaican dish was oxtail stew. When asked about songs on her playlist, she said she had "every Bob Marley song that he ever sung."

Locals also took note that Harris chose Karine Jean-Pierre, a Black woman born in Martinique to Haitian parents, to be her chief of staff and that Biden's campaign senior adviser for Florida is Karen Andre, a first-generation Haitian American born in New York and raised in Florida.

The campaign has released a TV ad on Haitian creole stations and print ads for Caribbean publications promoting Biden's relief efforts to aid Black-owned businesses. A new ad made for English-language Caribbean radio stations refers to Harris as "our Jamaican sister."

This is Biden's third trip To Florida during the presidential campaign.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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