In the congressional district that includes some of the poorest areas of Miami-Dade County, 10 candidates say change is long overdue, with many focusing on solving the district's biggest problem: jobs and economic development.
District 17 stretches from the impoverished areas of Overtown, Little Haiti, Liberty City and Opa-Locka up to middle-class Pembroke Pines and Miramar in Broward County.
The district's pressing needs — and the fact that a congressional seat is up for grabs because Rep. Kendrick Meek is running for the U.S. Senate — are creating interest not seen in 18 years.
"There's nothing to be proud of, just raggedy torn-down buildings," said Liberty City resident Carol Young, 53. "We have Burger King and McDonalds, but no major stores. We need to upgrade our community so that tourists can start coming over. It's time for a change."
More than 15 percent of the residents in Miami Gardens, a middle-class area of the district, are unemployed, according to National Bureau of Labor statistics from May, compared to 11 percent statewide. In 2008, the joblessness rate for the district was 50 percent above the national average, according to U.S. Census figures.
The seat has been held by Meek or his mother, Carrie Meek, since 1992. Primaries will be held on Aug. 24, the general election in November.
While the candidates agree the district needs help, the most blunt was state Rep. Yolly Roberson.
"Businesses are dying," Roberson said in a recent meeting with The Miami Herald editorial board. "There is no life in District 17. It's really an embarrassment for the nation. I think we can do better."
The candidates, who are almost all running as Democrats in the district that went 87 percent for President Barack Obama in 2008, include: state Sen. Frederica Wilson; Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson; Rudolph Moise, a physician; Marleine Bastien, executive director of the Haitian Women of Miami; state Rep. James Bush III; North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin; Miami Gardens Councilman Andre Williams; Roberson, who is a lawyer and nurse, and her ex-husband Phillip Brutus, a lawyer and former state legislator.
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