In the months leading up to Tuesday’s runoff election in North Miami, the Haitian-American community braced for a fight to maintain a majority on the city council.
From Creole-language radio to local churches, Haitian candidates and their supporters repeatedly told voters in the Haitian community that they would be better served if a majority of the council was of Haitian descent.
Voters elected Lucie Tondreau as the city’s first-ever Haitian-American female mayor. She defeated Kevin Burns with 55.7 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting.
“I love my community," Tondreau said before the results were announced. "Once the election is over, it’s time for the city to be united. We need one city for all residents."
Carol Keys, who is white, was elected to the District 2 seat. She defeated her Haitian-American opponent, Mary Irvin, with 61.95 percent of the votes.
In District 3, voters chose Haitian-American Philippe Bien-Aime over Jacques Despinosse. Bien-Aime won with 67.26 percent of the votes.
Many in North Miami’s Haitian community expressed concern that open council seats could lead them to lose a majority on the city council, with two white candidates also running for mayor and the District 2 seat.
Tensions between the growing Haitian population and long-time white residents continued to simmer on election day.
On Tuesday afternoon, Democratic state Rep. Daphne Campbell, a Tondreau supporter, took to Creole-language radio station WLQY-AM (1320) to tell voters about an encounter she had while at the polls in which white residents said they were voting for white candidates.
“If they’re saying, ‘White people all the way,’ where are the Haitians?” she asked. "Haitians all day long."
She continued: "The white people won’t help you.”
North Miami residents said they were ready to move forward despite the at-times divisive tone during the campaign.
"What’s going on is ridiculous. We’re one city with a diverse group of people with the same goals. We want the same things for all of our families," resident Holly Cohen said. " People are encouraging this divide to scare people and to get votes."
At the polls, voters said they were more concerned about public safety and the city’s economic health. "I want to see the city better-run. I want to see a safer city," resident Willy Williams said outside the Gwen Margolis Community Center. "There was a recent murder at a baby shower. That worries me."