At noon today, Michelle Spence-Jones was at her Liberty City headquarters furiously calling supporters to come out and vote for her.
The message to her troops regarding today's hotly contested Miami City Commission election was clear: "I just don't want nobody sitting around doing nothing around the campaign office."
When I stopped to talk to a campaign worker, she blurted: "You're hogging my only Creole speaker."
Spence-Jones called this place on NW 62nd Street near Seventh Avenue her "battle room," but it looked more like a depleted squadron headquarters. About 15 campaign workers downed Kentucky Fried Chicken with one hand and made phone calls with the other. Still, there was a palpable energy in the room.
This much was clear as she called supporters from her Blackberry: "You know this is the Lord's battle not mine," she told a voter. "This child of God is not gonna stop fighting."
The stakes for Spence-Jones are high in this election. She's fighting to reclaim the seat she was suspended from by Gov. Charlie Crist, but if she wins, Crist has vowed to suspend her again, and she's pledged to sue him.
Turnout is low -- "it's the second time you're asking people to vote," she said -- but she believes her supporters will show. And in the past two months she's raised $40,000.
"I don't know what else to do but keep the faith," she said.
Campaign workers for all 18 candidates vying for the District 1 and District 5 city commission seats kicked off the day even earlier than those seeking elected office. Jermaine Ford, an unemployed 28-year-old came to Spence-Jones' headquarters at 7 a.m. looking for a day's gig. He was paid $100 to hold a campaign sign for eight hours. "It's better than sitting at home doing nothing," he said. "Most of the people doing this are doing it for the money. It's a way to keep the neighborhood positive and stay out of trouble and at the end of the day you've got $100. Tomorrow it's back to the same bullshit."
The scene outside the Church of the Open Door in Liberty City, precinct 513, said as much about this special election as any of the candidates' speeches or the newspaper op-eds.
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SHOW ME HOW
Octavia Howard, a campaigner for Georges William, sat outside lamely holding up a poster for her candidate. "I can't speak for everybody but I live day to day," she said. "I got to put gas in my car, got to my little phone bill and there ain't no work." She'll be getting paid $100 from the Williams campaign for her eight hours of work.
Nearby was Willie Jackson, a 67-year-old unemployed campaigner for the Rev. Richard Dunn. He didn't care about the winner. "I'm a voter here for 40 years, and Liberty City's worse now than it's ever been," he said. "Up and down 62nd Street, it was better back then."
Still, Ford said he voted for Spence-Jones because he knows who she is, which is more than he can say for some of the other candidates. And he admires her resiliency. "People might not vote for her because of all the shit they're saying, but at least she did a little something," he said. "If everybody gave up because a bitch said this shit or that shit, nothing would get done. Her attitude is, 'You're gonna get me, but I'm gonna keep on trying.' That counts for a lot."