Voters Should Be Paying More Attention to Primaries

Reggie Fullwood 2
Reggie Fullwood 

by Reggie Fullwood

News flash to some, on August 28th – Florida will hold primary elections for a number of seats, including the Governor’s race.
It is hard not to pay attention to the buffoonery coming out of the White House nearly every day, but I wouldn’t sleep on the upcoming primary election season.

Maybe it’s just me, but voters/citizens don’t seem to be that engaged. Apathy is certainly in the air, but it shouldn’t be with the stakes so high in so many races. Yeah, I get it – the summer is the summer and who wants to really focus on politics when vacations, family reunions and water parks are much more fun?

However, the primary elections coming up are definitely worth a significant amount of focus. Consider this fact alone, Rick Scott’s election some eight years ago affected critical issues like school funding and statewide educational policy, felon rights restoration, disaster relief funds and many more areas that we all deal with everyday.

The Governor’s Office is a big deal and so are many of the local elections that Jacksonville voters will see on the ballot.
Here’s a quick run down.

I mentioned the governor’s race – talk about a cast of characters. Both Republican and Democratic primaries feature candidates that are diverse and distinctly different.

Top Democrats running for governor include Andrew Gilliam, current mayor of Tallahassee, who is the only African American candidate in the race. And then there is billionaire real estate mogul, Jeff Greene, who is definitely one of the more interesting candidates. A close friend of mine was in candidate interviews for a large statewide PAC and he said that Greene reminded him of Rodney Dangerfield.

Other top candidates include former mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. and daughter of former Florida Governor Bob Graham – Gwen Graham.

She is the only woman in the race, and is considered the front runner, but pundits say don’t sleep on Levine or Green, who is spending his own funds like he has a money tree in the backyard of one of his mansions. I recall Gov Scott had a similar formula for success.
The Republican front runners are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

President Trump has already endorsed DeSantis ahead of the GOP primary, which has given him a boost – especially amongst the Donald’s base of loyal lunatics. While Putnam is favored, DeSantis is making the race competitive with a few weeks to go.

The next big race to watch is for Congressional District 5 or as most would refer to it – the old Corrine Brown seat. The fairly new house district stretches from Quincy to Jacksonville.

Congressman Al Lawson is the one-term incumbent facing former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. The seat is a heavily Democratic and drawn favorably for Black candidates. This race should be interesting to watch.

While Lawson represented Tallahassee and surrounding counties in the Florida Legislature for 28 years, the district is still a predominately Jacksonville voter heavy seat. Most would say that Lawson hasn’t done enough to establish a strong presence in Duval, but it is always tough to beat incumbents.

And while Brown was the first African American to be elected as Mayor of Jacksonville, many question his ability to turn out voters. Some elected officials and political pundits that I have talked to even question if Brown really has a strong base of voters in the city. Regardless of the winner, this will be a close race.

My favorite race of the primary season is Tax Collector, yeah I know, it’s not the sexiest office to run for, but Duval County voters have an opportunity to elect the first African American female constitutional officer in Mia Jones. And just so that I’m fully transparent with my readers, Jones is a personal friend so I am somewhat biased. But despite the friendship, she is well qualified as a former City Councilwoman, State Representative and CEO of a healthcare organization.

Ironically, Jones faces three Republicans men who all served on the City Council around the same time as she did. Jim Overton and Lake Ray are past City Councilmen with Overton being a former property appraiser as well, and Ray a former state legislator. The third candidate is current City Councilman Doyle Carter, who represents parts of the Westside.

Other local races to watch include the FL House District 14 seat where State Rep. Kim Daniels faces a challenge from School Board Chairwoman Paula Wright. This should a close race as well – definitely another one to watch.

The race to replace Wright on the School Board is also highly contested with six candidates qualifying. Contenders include: Erdine Johnson, a retired teacher and principal, Darryl Willie, a Teach for America executive, Timothy Sloan, a retired vet and parent of two Duval students, Charis Scurry, manager of a drop-out prevention program, Cynthia Smith, a former teacher and owner of a child development center and Linda Butler, a retired teacher who served on the city council in Monticello, FL.

It’s a crowded field that will certainly have a run off in the general election in November between the top two finishers. I would bet on Willie facing off against either Johnson or Smith, but I have been wrong before.

Stay tuned for more the local races shaping politics in the African American community.

Signing off from the Jacksonville Free Press Office, wondering why there are so many cats here,

Reggie Fullwood

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