Jean Monestime Accuses Dorrin Rolle of Playing the Race Card as District 2 Race Gets Ugly

The race for county commissioner in District 2 isn't just historic, it's historically ugly.

At an NAACP political forum last week, Dorrin Rolle -- who could be the first incumbent to lose his seat on the board in 16 years -- likened his rival to blind musician Stevie Wonder for ignoring his accomplishments in office.

Now his opponent, Jean Monestime, is hitting back. Monestime tells Riptide that Rolle is playing the race card by trying to divide African-Americans in Liberty City from Haitian-Americans in North Miami.

"It's unfortunate that Rolle is running a race or ethnic-based campaign," Monestime says.

"Of course there has been an attempt to make it an African-American versus Haitian-American election," he says. "But people in District 2 will not fall for that."

Rolle did not respond to requests for comment.

Monestime and Rolle face off in a run-off election this Tuesday. Rolle, who raised more than four times as much cash as his five first-round challengers combined, won 40 percent of the vote on August 24, compared to Monestime's 25 percent. Since then, however, Monestime has picked up endorsements from at least two of his fellow challengers.

Monestime, who would be the Board of Commissioner's first Haitian-American, is seeking to tap into voter discontent over recent ethics complaints against Rolle. But after 12 years in office, Rolle also has a long list of development projects he's more than happy to tout.

And tout them he did as the two traded rhetorical punches at the NAACP Political Forum last Monday at New Birth Church in Liberty City.

"The current commissioner had 12 years to prove that he is able to bring the district up to par with the rest of Miami-Dade County, and he has failed to do that," Monestime said in his opening statement.

And the gloves came off.

"I don't know what eyes my opponent is looking through," Rolle said after listing several recently completed multi-million dollar projects. "It might be Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles. Certainly if these are not accomplishments worthy of me having another opportunity to be your commissioner, I don't know what else is great."

Rolle also tried to paint Monestime as out of touch with the inner city. "I'm willing to bet you a fat man that's losing weight that my opponent has not gone into the inner city to look at anything!" he said. "You can't be no transplant. You have to know this community."

"I've been to the inner city and the state of the inner city is bad," Monestime responded.

Monestime slammed Rolle over his refusal to back term limits for county commissioners and his fundraising practices, claiming that the incumbent has received donations from Alaska, Atlanta, and Connecticut.

"Lobbyists are funneling money in these races left and right," he said. "They're not allowing competent people to compete against sitting commissioners. It's creating a dismal situation in our county and it has to be stopped."

For his part, Rolle said campaign finance was not the problem.

"I don't think there is too much money funneling through these elections," he said. "You've got to get your word out and the only way to get your word out is to have folk support you, and they support you by making donations to your campaign."

Rolle finished the quasi-debate with a flourish, again trying to paint Monestime as an outsider.

"I'm willing to bet you that he doesn't know the number of crackhouses I've had to tear down in Liberty City," Rolle said with a wave of his arms.

Wait... Rolle has been tearing down crackhouses in Liberty City? Why haven't we heard of this before? The neighborhood could really use a superhero like that running for office.

He is? Oh, nevermind.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.