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Democrat Al Lawson downplays GOP donor interest in his CD 5 campaign

After a debate Thursday night that focused on Corrine Brown and her legal issues, Congressional District 5 Democrat Al Lawson had to address issues of his own in the post-debate presser.

Specifically, $14,000 in money from political committees since July 1 — many of which, such as U.S. SugarAssociated Builders and Contractors, and I-PAC Jax … line up almost exclusively behind Republican candidates.

Thus, a salient question: what explains GOP donor interest in Lawson?

Is the Blue Dog Democrat actually a Republican Trojan Horse?

Lawson downplayed the implication that he might be, in the eyes of donors, a DINO.


“Eighty percent [of my contributions] come from individuals,” Lawson said, adding that “legislators in this area get money from United States Sugar” and “nobody put more money into [my] campaign than I did.”

Lawson put $100,000 into his campaign earlier in the cycle.

“I was the Democratic leader of the Senate … the Dean of the Florida Legislature,” Lawson added, saying there’s “no problem on whether I’m a Democrat or not.”

GOP donor activity in Lawson’s candidacy is especially interesting because he will face reliable Republican Glo Smith in the general election should he win the primary Aug. 30. And because in Jacksonville and throughout the district, there are a not-inconsiderable amount of registered Democrats who vote Republican.

Brown made an issue of Lawson working “too closely” with Republicans during the debate that preceded the gaggle, including alleging — wrongly — that Susie Wiles, the Florida co-chair of the Donald Trump campaign, was Lawson’s campaign manager.

He had a message to CD 5 Democrats, as Corrine Brown looked on before her catastrophic press availability that followed.

“Why do you want to waste your vote on someone [who has been] indicted, [who has a] problem with lawyers?”

An exhausted Brown, slumped over in a chair, had a wry smile fixed on her face as she listened to her opponent’s personal attack while getting ready for a more intense experience with the press than she had on the debate stage minutes before.

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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