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Duval Democrats courted by congressional candidates

Odds are long for any Democrat running against U.S. Rep. John Rutherford in the Republican sinecure that is Florida’s 4th Congressional District.

Rutherford, a former three-term Jacksonville sheriff, has $300,000 cash on hand and name identification to spare.

Fundraising numbers are comparably modest for Jacksonville candidates Joceline Berrios and Monica DePaul, as well as Ponte Vedra businessman George Selmont.

Berrios and DePaul have yet to report any fundraising. Selmont has $6,000 cash on hand, but loaned his own campaign more than that.

And name identification is another area in which these candidates trail behind Rutherford, who won his last race by 40 points.

Despite these challenges, Berrios, DePaul, and Selmont are undeterred — and brought their arguments to Duval Democrats Monday at the party’s monthly meeting.

The three candidates had widely different intros. Berrios, probably the most vivid quote of the three, offered personal narrative that segued into a discussion of gun violence, setting off a recurrent theme of calls for impeachment of the President and Vice President.

DePaul offered a holistic critique of the system, noting at one point that “the rent is too damn high” and another that we need Medicare for all.

Selmont made a quieter pitch by comparison, sounding more like a Clinton Democrat than the other two, hitting bread and butter Democratic issues. He got applause when he said “Social Security is not an entitlement.”

The candidates were asked if they would vote for an abortion ban at 20 weeks; all agreed that they wouldn’t.

“If someone comes to me wanting to ban abortions,” Berrios said, “my response will be S-T-F-U.”

The crowd gasped.

The ability to raise money was the next topic. Selmont noted that this race will be a $2 million race, especially given the action up and down the ballot.

“It will be an extremely expensive race to run. Nobody can fund their own campaign,” Selmont said.

DePaul, whose campaign finance is not showing up on the Federal Elections Commission page, noted that “people power” and “small donations … make a difference.”

Berrios noted that there is an “excitement in the Puerto Rican community” regarding her running for Congress, and that “the money is coming in,” though as of this writing, her money was not on the FEC page either.

“When I saw that mofo throwing paper towels at Puerto Ricans after the earthquake,” Berrios said of President Trump, “I just thanked God that I’m not a violent person.”

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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