Fla. county considers Carter to watch voting

Official says ex-president too controversial for area

September 26, 2002|By KNIGHT RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

MIAMI - Just two years ago, during the dog days of the 2000 election, it was a late-night television joke, equating South Florida to Haiti or Nicaragua: "Don't worry - they're sending in Jimmy Carter!" Jay Leno cracked.

After this month's election disaster, there were no laughs as the Miami-Dade County Commission on Tuesday considered inviting former President Jimmy Carter to oversee the Nov. 5 election.

Commissioners didn't even raise the issue of how Carter's appearance at a Dade election could become ripe fodder for those who love to mock South Florida.

Instead, the man who has monitored voting from Venezuela to East Timor proved too controversial for Miami-Dade.

"Carter went to Cuba and said Castro was a nice guy," said Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Cancio. "So I'm opposed to him coming here to Dade County."

Carter's trip to Cuba in May riled many hard-line exile groups and any association with him could create problems for a politician on local Cuban radio.

Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler proposed the idea of an outside monitor, but Commissioner Jimmy Morales first mentioned Carter's name, among several possibilities.

"I would invite an independent monitor to come down here," Morales said during the debate. "I would be more than happy to have Jimmy Carter or U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft stand up and say, `They did it right.'"

Carey-Shuler, who asked the county attorney to draw up a resolution directing county staff to seek outside oversight of the election, in the end decided Carter might cause too much of a ruckus in the Cuban-American community.

"I didn't want to bring in a group that's going to create more problems," she said.

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