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Florida Voters React to the First Presidential Debate Between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

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On Monday night, millions of Americans tuned in to watch Secretary of State Hillary Clinton face off against Donald Trump in the first of three general election presidential debates.

A number of Florida voters watched the debate at parties organized across the state and their reactions provide an insight into an electorate that knows this is a high-stakes election that will determine what it means to be an American for at least the next generation.

We’ve compiled a few of their reactions below.

Reactions from Pompano Beach, Florida


“I think we all need to think long and hard about what it means to show up to vote, and what the consequences of our votes are. Who will be vulnerable and impacted outside of yourself? Voting is not a form of personal expression or moral judgment. Too much is at stake in my opinion and to not vote is privileged in a way I cannot hang with. Individualism is buried deep in our culture. One possible outcome is terrifying, and I hope we choose better together and then use the close call to do some larger soul searching and changing.”

Cara Despain, Artist, Community member, Miami, FL.

”For me, it’s a simple choice. I believe voting is an act of citizenship within a larger than oneself organism. You must consider what the greater good will be and work to support it. This is outside of one’s own “personal” needs or feelings. This may also be taking smaller steps toward the great good.

The simplest example is thinking of being in a large group of people who need to make choices on where to go and how to survive. It is quite difficult to arrive at a consensus and when you do, there are usually a few who are upset. At that point, those who are upset have a choice. Compromise for the good since you are outvoted or stand aside and forfeit your involvement and any choices in the future. Even though your survival and that of others depends on working together. This is a choice our beloved Bernie understands more than anyone since he has been practicing it for 30+ years.

The operative words here are “stronger together.”

Leyden Rodriguez, Artist,  Community member, Miami, FL

Reactions from Homestead, Florida


“There was one thing in the debate that was consistent: That was Trump being on the defensive,” said community activist Joel Aguilera.

Reactions from Miami, Florida


Community members Miami gather at the headquarters of Florida New Majority to watch the debate

maria“I was very doubtful of Hillary Clinton before and thought that she was very corrupt and easily bought out. But today, I am seeing a different side of her. She’s speaking up for herself, she’s taking ownership of mistakes she’s done, like the emails,” said 19-year old Maria Parra from Homestead, who attended one of debate watch parties in Miami as part of Florida Student Power Network.


brandonmansilla“We got to see what really matters,” said 20-year old Brandon Mansilla from Kendall. “We saw them put their immaturities to the side and the facts on the table so that we can address what really are problems. I think in the second and third debates, we’ll really get to see who’s the one that’s up to par for the Presidential elections.”

mariamejia“Donald Trump is still fighting with his temperament and I think that there were lots of he could couldn’t respond to,” said Spanish-speaking Maria Mejia, who lives in the Little Havana section of Miami. ” He was evading questions and it was a clear indication that he is not prepared to lead this country.”

Mejia said that what also got her attention was that Trump still didn’t want to disclose his tax forms.

“I think that that’s offensive because everyone should be able to show their taxes. If [most people]  were asked to show their taxes, we would do it because we don’t have anything to hide.

en Espanol

“Donald Trump todavía está luchando mucho con su temperamento y creo que hubo muchas preguntas que el no pudrias responder,” dijo María Mejilla, que vive en la pequeña Habana en Miami.  “El estaba evadiendo las preguntas y creo que es un buen ejemplo de que él no está preparado para conducir este país.

Mejilla también dijo que algo que le llamo la atencion fue como Trump no todavía no quiere mostrar sus impuestos.

“Creo que esto es un ofensa para todos porque todos el mundo deber enseñar sus impuestos.  Si nosotros nos piden que nos ensenen nuestros impuestos, lo hacemos porque no tenemos nada para esconder.”

juliocImmigrant activist Julio Calderón  said that he disagreed with Trump’s endorsement of stop and frisk as a solution to stop crime when the policy has hurt so many in our communities. While he thought that Clinton demonstrated the capacity to be president, he said that there was a lot of time between now and the Nov. 8 election.

“We hope that in the next debate that she will continue to push him and show us more of the kind of policies that she would push,” said Calderon in Spanish. “Especially on the minimum wage, and her support of raising it to $15 an hour.

Activista Julio Calderón dijo que no estaba de acuerdo con Trump promoviendo la política de stop and frisk como solución contra el crimen cuando ha dolarizado tanta gente en nuestra comunidades. Y que aunque Clinton demostró que tiene la capacidad a ser presidenta, falta mucho a November 8.

en Espanol

“Esperamos que en el próximo debate que ella sigue empujandolo mas a el y que demuestra que tipo de política quiere empujar ella ” dijo Calderon. “Especialmente con el salario mínimo, que sigue diciendo que apoya el subido a 15 ( pesos la hora).”

Reactions from Tampa, Florida

Throughout this election, I’ve told myself there wasn’t a candidate I would vote for. As someone who remained on the fence about voting, I saw a different side of Clinton. She overcame her trust issues for me as she defended our communities of color on the issue of racism and held Trump accountable for being sued by the Justice Department for discriminating against minority applicants in the 1970’s.

Dedra Williams of Tampa, Florida.