Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll tells Republican Party to go after every vote, much like she did in 2010 to drag Rick Scott to his first gubernatorial victory.
BY THE FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
DAYTONA BEACH – Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the only Black female lieutenant governor in Florida history, spoke to approximately 60 listeners at the Republican Club of Daytona Beach, urging them to go after every vote and to spread the Republican message.
In a wide-ranging 25-minute speech followed by questions from the audience, Carroll touched on the difference between liberals and conservatives, the media, how Black newspapers are critical to political messaging, her own childhood and raising her three children, her experience as a naturalized citizen, and federal government corruption – among other issues – before concluding her formal speech with an anecdote about the thrill of being an American citizen.
“Not the conservative way”
She made it clear that the state of conservative politics, even within the Republican Party, is in need of improvement.
“As Republicans, we need to stick to being conservative. Because we’ve seen a lot of RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) with an ‘R’ behind their name,” she said, referring to Republican politicians.
“But when it comes time to vote for the principles of the Republican Party, they kind of squander away and hide behind something and not vote the conservative way.
“What are the principles of the Republican Party? Do you even hear that anymore? Less government. Lower taxes…the (federal) deficit.
“When guys and gals get up there, sometimes they get hungry for power. They look forward to their next re-election…Those congressional seats belong to us.”
A native of Trinidad and Tobago who emigrated to America as an adopted only child with her two parents, Carroll was the first woman to be elected as lieutenant governor, and the first African-American of Caribbean descent to be elected statewide since Reconstruction.
“I was born in Trinidad. I am a naturalized citizen,” she reminded attendees. “We came to this country the legal way. We followed the rules. Followed the process. We assimilated into this country.
“My parents didn’t take a handout. At times, my parents would take two or three jobs to make sure they provided for me… They understood that this country afforded the opportunity for anyone to achieve whatever they wanted to achieve.”
Carroll said that life’s challenges are “created to make us what we’re supposed to be.” She also said that it’s time for conservative Republicans to be more vocal.
“If we do not stand up for those who want to silence us, if we cower in fear and keep our lips silent against those who want to silence our point of view, then we have let down our forefathers,” she said, as she urged Republicans to take more advantage of their First Amendment right to free speech.
Taking a hint from the current Republican playbook against the Democratic Party, Carroll took aim at socialism.
“I say to those people who want to turn our country into a socialist type of environment and socialist policies, then there are other places that have those policies. You can go live there.
“If socialist ideals are so great, why are people leaving socialist countries to come to this country where we have freedoms and liberties that many people take for granted? That’s the question that needs to be asked.”
Referring to Amendment 4, the Florida constitutional amendment that restored voting rights for ex-felons commonly referred to as “returning citizens,” Carroll urged Republicans to reach out to register them as well as to get them involved in the political process.
“I believe Republicans should reach out to those people and not give up one vote to the other side for these people being repatriated into the voting population.”
Black newspaper impact
In response to a question, she also related how her strategy of leaving no vote behind won the razor-close 2010 gubernatorial election for her and her running mate, Rick Scott.
According to Carroll, Scott’s campaign had no strategy of outreach to Florida Black voters, and gave her no money to support any such effort. She was on her own with a Black Republican consultant, and they came up with a Black voter strategy completely on their own. Black newspapers were a key part of the campaign strategy.
“If you’re not going to ask for something, you’re not going to get it,” she explained. “Black newspapers sit around barbershops and beauty salons and churches for weeks. Your information is in there… If you don’t reach out and share your side of the story so they (Black voters) can get additional information that they didn’t have before, how would they know?”
In the homestretch of the 2010 campaign, Carroll also decided to appear at a critical candidates’ forum – again, with no support from the Scott campaign – at one of South Florida’s largest Black churches, New Birth Cathedral of Faith International in Opa-Locka. Most of South Florida’s Black-owned media covered the event, which was also broadcast live on WMBM-AM, South Florida’s largest gospel radio station.
Obviously believing that the Black vote was in her pocket, 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink was a no-show and didn’t bother to send a surrogate. Carroll didn’t waste the opportunity.
“Look around. Do you see the opponent here?” she asked the assembled thousands in the church. “At least I am giving you the respect of coming to your house and asking you to vote for me.”
The six percent Black vote Carroll was able to earn in South Florida was the difference in Scott and Carroll winning the 2010 gubernatorial election by a little more than one percent statewide.
Carol is concerned about what happens to the Republican Party nationally once Donald Trump is out of office.
“Cities and states and areas we have never won before are not considered Republican territory. They are considered Trump territory. We as conservatives must make sure we can stand strong after the president is no longer president.”
“You have to keep kids engaged and involved,” she explained, while reflecting on her childhood of school and work, in which she ironed her mother’s nursing outfits and her father’s pajamas.
In her own house, Carroll said that she didn’t mind spoiling her children, but she did not “spoil them rotten.” When there was misbehavior, “punishment was swift and certain” among her three children.
“Sometimes I would just wear a belt around my neck,” she laughed, and that was enough to make her children behave.
Respect the symbols
“My kids started preschool at age 2,” she related. “They had to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I have traveled to many, many lands… and they are nationalists. You will see their flags flying everywhere. And our own citizens don’t want to pledge to a flag that had draped so many people coming back from fighting for democracy in other lands? That to me is a disgrace.”
She described her emotions as she hoisted the flag on a flagpole on a ship on which she served as a Navy enlistee.
“That was in 1979,” she remembered. “And that image, and those feelings, are still with me this day. I hope our young people can feel what I still feel and honor this nation for what it gives us and will continue to give us if we fight for its freedoms and for its liberties.”
Carroll – once the most powerful Black Republican in the state – holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Business Administration from St. Leo University. She was an elected state lawmaker for more than seven years. A Navy veteran, she also served as the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and led various state agencies as lieutenant governor.
Carroll worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. In April 2018, Trump appointed her to the American Battle Monuments Commission, an independent governmental agency that administers, operates, and maintains permanent U.S. military cemeteries, memorials and monuments around the world.
Pushing GOP women
She is also the national spokesperson for Maggie’s List, “the country’s leading political action committee specifically focused on electing conservative women to federal public office” according to its website.
“Women have a very challenging time raising money and breaking through the barriers that men do not. We need to have conservative women to push back against the ‘AOCs’ of the world,” Carroll explained, referring to freshman Congresswoman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
At age 29, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress. She’s noted for her substantial social media presence and is a constant target of Trump and the national GOP.
Carroll has been married to Nolan Carroll of Miami for some 34 years, and they have three children: Nolan II, Nyckie and Necho; and one grandson.