North Miami’s elections are typically drama-filled.
The upcoming mayoral election, triggered after former mayor Lucie Tondreau was arrested by federal agents and removed from office, is no different.
Three candidates are vying to replace Tondreau: Jean Rodrigue Marcellus, a former city councilman, Kevin Burns, a former two-term mayor and Dr. Smith Joseph, a local physician. All three men are familiar faces to voters; they ran for mayor last election against Tondreau.
While she's no longer in office, Tondreau's loyal support base could play a key role in these coming election. In fact, Tondreau is telling her supporters exactly who to vote for.
Tondreau tells Haitian-radio listeners to vote for Marcellus in a Creole-language ad airing daily on WLQY 1320 AM.
She says he will hold her seat for her until she returns. Tondreau reassures her supporters she will get justice in the court system. The former mayor is accused of conspiring with three others to recruit straw borrowers to purchase 20 South Florida homes while defrauding various banks of $8 million.
Marcellus says he welcomes Tondreau’s endorsement.
“When we have three candidates and she choose me, she said, ‘You know what? This is the man I believe that’s capable and that has the experience and maturity to unify the community and to carry out my vision,’ says Marcellus. “ I think that’s a very good thing to say about someone.”
The daily endorsement ad, is immediately followed by an ad for Marcellus.
Marcellus says his friends and supporters on Haitian radio have been airing the ads for free.
Joseph says Marcellus and his supporters are using the airwaves to mislead Haitian-American voters. He says they accuse him of conspiring with the FBI to have Tondreau arrested.
“It’s time for us to stop lying to this community,” says Joseph.
Candidate Kevin Burns believes the bickering between Joseph and Marcellus may tire members of the powerful Haitian voting bloc and steer votes his way.
“Other people that normally wouldn’t give me a look are going to look at me, and I’m talking about members of the Haitian community,” he says.
North Miami early voting starts Aug. 11. Election day is Aug. 26.