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Caribbean American women make their mark on U.S. mid-term elections

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“Jennifer and I are eager to start bringing people together to solve our problems” – Florida’s Governor-elect Rick Scott on running mate, T&T-born Jennifer Carroll
Two women with Caribbean backgrounds made strong bids for high profile political office during the recent mid-term elections in the United States.

Vote counts were still to be confirmed up to Caribbean Today’s press time, but indications were that at least one can be declared successful, while the other must wait for the official outcome of a close race.

Trinidad and Tobago-born Jennifer Carroll will be Florida’s next lieutenant governor. Carroll, serving as Republican Rick Scott’s running mate, is slated to become the state’s first black female to hold that post, following Scott’s victory in the race for Florida’s top job on Nov. 2.

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Kamla Harris
However, Kamala Harris, whose father is from Jamaica, may have to wait a bit to find out if she is the new attorney general of California, although she appeared to have the edge in the race with the official counting still to be completed.

Carroll was born in Port of Spain, but left for the U.S. as a child. She attended University of New Mexico, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, before earning a master’s degree from St. Leo University. She later joined the U.S. Navy, served for more than two decades, before retiring with the rank of lieutenant commander.

In the mid-1980s Carroll moved to Florida and started a business. By 2003 she had been elected to the Florida House of Representatives, the first black female Republican to do so. She has served in the House as deputy majority leader and majority whip.

‘HISTORY MAKER’

In early September, Scott announced Carroll as his running mate. He called the 51-year-old a “history maker and a barrier breaker.” Scott’s victory over Democrat Alex Sink, who conceded the race while trailing by roughly 60,000 votes, has allowed Carroll to chalk up another first in Florida politics. They hope the diversified ticket will foster unity in the state.

“Jennifer and I are eager to start bringing people together to solve our problems,” Scott said following his victory.

However, for the Democrat Harris, an attorney, any planned celebrations had to be put on hold. On election night both she and her Republican opponent Steve Cooley appeared confident of victory. But the official count may not be completed for possibly another couple weeks.

Still, indications are that Harris may have the edge in the tight race. One unofficial count indicated that Harris, who was endorsed by U.S. President Barack Obama, had taken the seat with 45.9 percentage of votes, with Cooley receiving 45.8 percent. But earlier counts had indicated that Harris trailed Cooley.

If Harris wins, she will become the first woman, first black and first Asian American to be California’s attorney general, and the first Indian American attorney general in the U.S.

Her father is Donald Harris, a Stanford University economics lecturer. Her mother is Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, a breast cancer specialist who migrated from India.

The 46-year-old Harris, described by some in the media as the “female Obama”, was born in Oakland, California. Se attended Howard University and later graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.

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