*There is a line of reasoning for every season and, as the seasons change, so too does that line of reasoning. For former rap star turned community activist Luther Campbell, change was inevitable. He’s running for mayor of one of America’s major metropolitan areas, Miami. And that has some people laughing, and some people shook. He tells our Lee Bailey that his political pedigree began to strengthen as soon as he began to care for the less fortunate.
“People who know me from the music industry know that I’m a champion of free speech,” he explained. “I fought with the Supreme Court and won. Along the way it becomes political. You’re forced to be political as far as free speech is concerned. People who know me know that I have always been a community servant. I’ve fought the program and I’m still around after 25 years as well as worked with African American politicians who have worked with us in the community as well as in Miami.”
Though it might not be fair we can’t help but be a little surprised, as is most of the rest of the world. You mean the dude with the girls and the gold chains and that gap in his teeth? That Luke is running for mayor of what?
“It’s no surprise to people the people of Miami,” he explained. “It’s a surprise to the people outside of South Florida because they don’t know the things that I do. I’m not a person who, like a lot of artists, who do things for publicity. I do things because I do it from my heart.”
Things such as?
“I went over to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in support of the Haitians that were displaced in the war and set out in the ocean. I did that without asking for any publicity. I fought for African Americans to be equal on South Beach I did it without asking for any publicity. I just wanted equal treatment and we worked with the justice department to get them that equal treatment. These are the different things that I have been doing in my community. I’ve worked with Congressman Meeks, school board members, senators. I’ve been doing this for years and it’s no surprise to the people of South Florida.”
Ok then Uncle Luke! The aforementioned actions are nothing to sneeze at and, at least to us, are a clear measure of Campbell’s demonstrated commitment to the people of Miami-Dade County. Here’s what Luke told EURweb.com when asked what specifically motivated him to run.
“I have to say when you have 8 innocent people get killed by the Miami police department (within months of one another) that says to me enough is enough. When you have affordable housing department get taken over by the federal government that says enough is enough. When you look at a transit department and $180 million is missing and it gets taken over by the federal government that says to me enough is enough. I love my city to death and I’ve been working so hard for fair treatment for the people of Miami.”
Several days ago EURweb.com ran a story in which Campbell called out several high-profile superstars for failure get involved in his mayoral campaign, but that doesn’t mean he’s not getting any local help.
“I’ve got quite a bit of support. I’ve got athletes who I have mentored through the University of Miami. People like Warren Sapp, Edgerrin James, Santana Moss. I have support from senators. My main thing is the support of the community. When the cuts happen here in the county the cuts happen to the people who have not been represented. I can tell you 12 different reasons why I’m getting in this race. I just feel like right now it’s time for a change here in South Florida. I feel like it’s time to make it all one Miami, bring it together. It has been separated and divided by special interest groups as well as lobbyists and lobbyists control some of our African American politicians that sit on the county commision right now.”
When Campbell announced his decision to run in January of 2011, derisive and snarky comments littered the blogosphere, but whose laughing now? So, far Campbell’s campaign has been quite successful.
“There’s a total of 11 people in this race and right now I’m tied for second place” he explained. “It’s similar to Obama’s race. Early on, when Hillary was running, most African American politicians were supporting Hillary as well as the churches. In my case, a lot of the churches are supporting me but a lot of the African American politicians on the commission are not supporting me or not supporting anybody at all. They’re just sitting on the fence. At the same time it’s not a popularity contest. I’m 50 years old, I’m all grown up. When I look at my community and I see the same job problems, crime, affordable housing problems, no economic development, the money that was set aside by the Clinton administration being moved over and taken to other neighborhoods, people going to jail for misappropriating those funds, enough is enough. It’s time to get off the sideline and get in the game.”
And what is Luther Campbell’s battlecry?
“My theme is ‘I’m dead serious’. Early on people were asking me if this was a celebrity stunt. That’s what my opponents put out there at first. People would ask me ‘Are you serious?’ and I said I’m dead serious. That became my slogan.”
Unfortunately, as is often the case with cities that have large African American and large Hispanic populations, the citizen’s of Miami have been set against one another for years. Campbell told EURweb.com that one of his primary missions is to change that circumstance.
“The Latin people feel bad about the things that happen in the African American community and how they’ve been taken advantage of by everybody,” said Luke. “That’s what’s driving my campaign. There’s a major divide in this community. For too long it’s been the Latins versus the blacks and it’s time for a change. The people want different. The people of South Florida want different and they’re speaking right now and that’s why they support me.”
And what of the inevitable dirt that opponents are bound to bring up?
“The people that know me, they don’t look at it like the rest of the world, from ‘2 Live Crew’. They look at me for who I am and what I represent here in Miami. They don’t have a problem with the girls that were in bikinis that were in the videos because that’s what we see everyday. If we lived in Kansas City, Missouri then they don’t understand it because they don’t have a beach. It’s a big business when it comes to South Florida compared to the rest of the world. As far as the music that I did? Everybody understands there was a time and a place for that. They know that the music wasn’t intended to offend anybody. We live in a free country and that’s the reason why I fought for the First Amendment Rights. People that support me say ‘there was a period for that in his life as an artist. This is a grown man and a community servant.’ There’s no question about my dedication and my service to this community. Whether it was working at the high schools, coming out and doing gang prevention, they know my service. There’s not a question as to whether I’m committed to my community. They know that everybody, at sometime, was a freshman in college. They did things, they had fun, then it was time to grow up.”
They say that politicians must elicit strange bedfellows to get things done, and there’s no stranger bedfellow for Luke than the local church.
“Every church I go to the pastors are very supportive of it,” Campbell told EURweb.com. “Whether I go to my neighborhood church, white pastors, predominantly Haitian congregations they’re very supportive. Every church that I’ve gone to – not only the pastors but the congregations – are very supportive of my campaign. That’s why I’m tied for second right now.”
Campbell is in second place running what he calls a ‘Five Dollar” campaign. The frontrunner is Julio Urbano, a man Luke says is deep in the pockets of lobbyists and special interest groups.
“We don’t want special interest money,” he explained. “I can go get Builder’s Association money right now, I can take lobbyists’ money right now and my account will be well over 300,000 dollars by one phone call. I don’t want that. I feel that if you take that money you owe those people. I don’t want to take any money from people that are looking to take advantage of people in the end. I don’t want the money. I’m going to be running the same type of operation as President Obama and it’s going to be transparent and it’s not going to be any special interest groups and no lobbyists.”
By Campbell’s account Urbano has well over 2 million in his coffers. How does he hope to compete with that?
“You need money to buy name recognition, you need money to buy television ads, you need money to go and create something that’s not there for an individual who has no name recognition. I have that. All I need is flyers, I need to go door to door, go to forums, do town hall meetings, you don’t need money to do that.”
What started as a political side note is getting hot and heavy down in Miami. Luther Campbell for Mayor? Who would have though it? Stay tuned to EURweb.com for more on our conversation with Luther Campbell, Miami’s might-be mayor.