Hustling the Hood

Does it matter to blacks which wealthy, middle-aged white guy is Florida's next governor?

Curry grins. "I'm going to second that emotion," he adds. "I don't mean to riot, but if they start messing with our votes, we need to take to the streets. This is not about the governorship. This is about four more years of what we can't stand!" Curry introduces Reno, and it's as if the seats are equipped with firecrackers that simultaneously explode. When the cheering dies down, Reno speaks. She seems energized by the thunder and fury of New Birth's bishop, her shaking hands making the mike wobble on the giant screens. She promises to "fight to make sure the vote is right. Before we start the holy war, let's go to the polls early on Election Day. And if it's not right, then we raise Cain!"

McBride also seems transformed and at his most militant. "I do not stand where Jeb Bush stands on almost anything," he intones, lamenting a Republican approach to social services, creating "a private system for the rich and a public system for the poor." A woman in the crowd exclaims, "Say it!" Then Curry comes back on. "The only way Bill McBride will win over Jeb Bush is if we turn out in massive numbers," he urges. "No doubt about it."

The music swells again, this time an islander's reggae tune. For the second time in her political career, Reno is dancing onstage, awkwardly swinging her arms. McBride begins to swing his hips too, actually managing to make Reno look graceful. Moments later, as the song finishes and an inspired crowd disperses, a large woman with long braids waits patiently for the crowd to clear. Ernestine Petit, an administrative assistant at Norland High School and a local NAACP worker, offers her assessment. She doesn't think people have any illusions that they will be gaining a warrior for the cause in McBride, but he's better than the alternative: "Before today, I was going to vote for him anyway," she shrugs. "I didn't know anything about him. My 12-year-old son watched the governor's debate on TV. Hesaid he wasn't impressed with either one of them."

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