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Alvin Brown, Al Lawson deliver tepid performances in Jax AME forum

Just hours after U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown threw elbows in a meeting with the Florida Times-Union editorial board, the two Democrats made their respective cases at a Jacksonville AME political forum.

The two have jousted throughout the campaign, exchanging jabs on everything from Lawson’s positions on Stand Your Ground and ICE, and Brown’s closeness to Corrine Brown and his alleged “failure” as mayor.

After the two sat patiently through almost two hours of forums for school board and tax collector candidates, they finally got mike time (along with Republican Virginia Fuller, who is the party’s nominee by default) as the 9 p.m hour approached.

Spoiler alert: whatever fire and brimstone the two Dems had was, for reasons only known to them, left outside the doors of the Westside Jacksonville church.

Judging from the mailed-in performances, it may have been past all of their bedtimes. There was no new ground in answers. No new attacks. Just sedentary pantomimes of the kind of fiery oratory seen more often in these candidates’ press releases than their live deliveries.

Lawson, when asked about affordable housing, noted that Eureka Gardens (across the street from the forum) looked like something out of a “third world country” — a tacit jab at former Mayor Brown.

“There has not been much done by the city the last several years to make a change at Eureka Gardens,” Lawson said.

Brown didn’t take Lawson’s bait, instead talking about “mixed-use” housing proposals that would attract teachers or cops to live in the inner city, with the government paying half the cost of a house for these public service professions.

Brown, when asked what he would do about Medicare’s impending insolvency, noted he supports “healthcare for all” and spotlighted his work as mayor enrolling people in the Affordable Care Act.

Lawson vowed that “we’re not going to let Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security run out,” though as was the case with Brown, there was no real solution advanced for American entitlements hurtling over a fiscal cliff in the coming years.

Guns were next.

Lawson trotted out his now-familiar line that people don’t need assault rifles to hunt rabbits. Brown committed to “common sense gun reform,” including an assault weapon ban and ban on taking money from the NRA.

Pivoting to Stand Your Ground, Brown called for repeal — though he did not mention a familiar campaign talking point that Lawson voted for it when in Tallahassee.

Pressed for his biggest accomplishment and regret in Congress, Lawson noted his work for food relief after Hurricane Irma as an accomplishment. No regrets were enumerated. Lawson also noted his work to bring a veterans’ hospital to Jacksonville.

The same question went to Brown as Mayor. Brown took the opportunity to credit himself for job creation (36,000 new jobs) and “supporting our veterans,” as well as educational reforms such as the Learn2Earn program.

Lawson went on to note his record representing populations throughout North Florida.

“I know I have the energy, the ability to represent this area quite well,” Lawson said. “I have a record.”

Fuller, curiously, knocked her opponents for getting funding from Republican donors. By contrast, she is not getting funding from anyone, she said.

Brown, meanwhile, said he had the best “vision” to represent the region, with proposals for a “living wage — fifteen cents an hour.”

He corrected himself.

“Fifteen dollars an hour,” he 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 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

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