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Audrey Gibson, Tracie Davis address Duval Democrat committeeman’s alleged racist comments

Some say John Parker, a Democratic state committeeman from Duval County and husband of the current county party chair, made racist comments at a dinner and should resign.

Others say Parker was misrepresented.

Whatever the case, the Florida Democratic Party is now investigating the matter.

And Democratic elected officials, such as Senate Democratic Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson and state Rep. Tracie Davis, are having to respond to the latest scandal in the local party, one that exposes some serious and unresolved structural issues.

Florida Politics caught up with Gibson and Davis at a media availability in Jacksonville Thursday.

Gibson, a former chair of the county party, said she “learned about the comment when [she] was in Tallahassee.”

“The words were ‘colored people’,” Gibson said. “So, I thought ‘that’s a boneheaded term to use’.”

“I’ve never known John to be a racist,” Gibson said. “I just think he used the term because it was something he was used to using. He might be stuck in time.”

“Here’s the other side of that. I just want our DEC to come together,” Gibson said, “even if that includes sensitivity training. There are ways to get back together. We have so much work to do between now and November.”

FP asked Gibson if a perception issue was created by Parker, under fire, being married to current chairwoman Lisa King. And, if the investigation went badly for Parker, if King should consider stepping down.

“I’m not telling Lisa or John what to do. Between the two of them,” Gibson said, “they should look at what perception is for the good of the party.”

Gibson as chair worked to increase minority participation at the precinct level.

“I was successful at that,” the Senator said, “because I wanted there to be more diversity. That’s the way it should be.”

“I think the entire membership really should have a closed meeting,” Gibson advised, “where there’s no voting or anything, and have a good discussion about what has happened so we can move forward. That includes reflection by the chair, by the state committeeman, all the officers and all the precinct committee people.”

Davis likewise took the issue seriously, wanting it to be “handled quickly” before more damage is done.

“I really would like to hear both sides,” Davis said, “before I form an opinion about what’s going on. But whatever the situation is, it needs to be handled quickly.”

“There’s a lot of momentum in the Democratic Party right now, statewide and through the country,” Davis added. “I would hate for that momentum to be changed in any respect to our local politics or our state politics. I think it can affect us longer-term if we don’t handle and solve whatever the issue is.”

Davis, when asked if there were divisions in the party, said that “it can have that impression. I honestly don’t want to feel like that’s a division. Here we are in 2018, I don’t want the term that was used to be considered negative.”

Davis urged the parties sitting down to “come to an understanding.”

“It just needs to be dealt with,” the State Representative said.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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