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Tom Joyner and Corrine Brown work the crowd at an Alvin Brown rally

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How “Selma Sunday” could decide the Jacksonville election on Tuesday

Saturday was a big day for Early Voting in Jacksonville. Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland observes that “5,355 ballots were cast on Day 13 of Early Voting,” which is the biggest number thus far.

“43,724 Democratic voters, 40,832 Republican voters and 11,009 Non-Partisan voters have either cast an Early vote or a Vote by Mail Ballot totaling 95,466, which is 17.39% of the vote,” he adds.

That number probably is less than half of what the total turnout will be by the end of Tuesday’s voting; Holland and others expect a tally somewhere north of 40%. The NPA voters, in all likelihood, will swing the election.

Selma SundayThe Democratic raw vote advantage certainly will exceed 3,000 votes by the end of Sunday. But how high can and will it go? Everyone has a theory about the lead the Duval Dems will need to feel comfortable going into Tuesday. A big part of how big that lead is, and ultimately how comfortable party people will be, comes down to Selma Sunday.

Selma Sunday, presented by the Duval DEC and Friends of Corrine Brown, is going to present the distilled case that Lenny Curry will “turn back the clock” to voters.

“Civil rights icon and U.S. Representative John Lewis (GA-5) will endorse Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. At a get out the vote rally featuring hundreds of local supporters, Lewis will draw stark contrast between Brown’s vision for taking Jacksonville forward, with Lenny Curry’s record of limiting voting rights. Joining Lewis and Brown will be U.S.  Representative G.K. Butterfield (NC-1), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC); and U.S. Representatives Corrine Brown (FL-5) and Jim Clyburn (SC-6),” claims the release from the Brown campaign.

The Brown campaign has made use of Curry’s record as RPOF Chair increasingly as polls have tightened since the March First Election. Literature and radio ads have contended that Curry is “divisive and dangerous,” and the campaign plays right into the Brown campaign’s hands, allowing Brown to say, even to those who live in neighborhoods with superannuated infrastructure, failed schools, and shootings within earshot seemingly every weekend, that at least the Mayor is not restricting voting rights for people in those situations.

The name Selma Sunday is no accident; the Brown campaign has made use of this year being the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma march and the Voting Rights Act at more than one GOTV rally. Bringing John Lewis in to drive the point home is merely an exclamation point on the sentence.

Selma Sunday, if it is a significant draw, may provide the decisive margin in a mayor’s race that seems certain to pivot on a couple of thousand votes. And that mayor’s race, in turn, may have significant ramifications for the leadership of the two local parties, both of which have had interesting rides this election season.

The Republican Executive Committee, chaired by Councilman Robin Lumb, has weathered a couple of storms in the last year. The most notable of which was in January, when the REC ensured that Lenny Curry would get the official party endorsement over Bill Bishop, a process which catalyzed a series of reactions that culminated in Bishop’s campaign managers moving over to Brown World as paid consultants, sending an “endorsement email” from Bishop’s campaign account, and then, a couple of weeks later, seeing Bishop himself endorse Brown.

The Democratic Executive Committee, helmed by Neil Henrichsen, has weathered its own storms. Henrichsen and Councilwoman Denise Lee got into a public dust up, in which Lee, who has made her criticisms of the Brown campaign’s use of “race baiting” ads well known, said “ain’t nobody elected Neil What’s-His-Name to nothing. I’ve been elected. I am African-American; he isn’t. I understand the culture; he doesn’t. You know he’s not telling the truth. Nobody elected him to nothing. He’s never been to a committee meeting in my district.”

Beyond Lee’s critiques, there are murmurs of disenchantment from other parties. Some who are associated with Council campaigns have groused that Henrichsen and other DEC members, as well as the state party, have pressured them to divert resources from their own efforts to that of the mayor’s re-election. Meanwhile, there are certain Young Democrats who claim that Henrichsen is disengaged in other aspects of party leadership.

Winning will smooth out all tensions for one side. The losing side, however, will be the more interesting to observe in the days after May 19.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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