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Will the gun issue topple Al Lawson in Washington? Alvin Brown hopes so.


ICE heats up primary fight between Al Lawson, Alvin Brown

The Democratic primary battle in Florida’s 5th Congressional District between U.S. Congressman Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is heating up.

And ICE is one reason why.

Last week, Lawson found himself voting with Republicans (and against many Democrats) on a key issue: the future of the controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Lawson was just one of 18 Democrats voting in favor of ICE, which is under fire of late due to the internment of migrant children.

Suffice it to say Lawson had no regrets over his vote.

“You’ve got to have some kind of border security. You can’t just have open borders,” Lawson said. “They need to be reformed, but they do other things besides immigration. Protection [against] traffickers — drug traffickers, human traffickers, and everything else.”

“The Democrats — someone had a protest vote to say ‘present,’ but there’s no such vote as ‘present.’ They would refuse to vote to get rid of them. They voted present. I’m just not that kind of person.”

“You’ve got to reform them, but you can’t just get rid of them. That’s probably the worst decision that we made, saying that we’re going to get rid of ICE,” Lawson said.

“They were led by Maxine Waters, you know, in California. But really, it’s not the issue.”

Brown took the weekend to formulate a response to the incumbent’s ICE advocacy, but once he finally did it was full of fire.

“Last week [Lawson] was 1 of just 18 Democrats who voted to defend Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — the same controversial federal agency that carried out Donald Trump’s extreme policy of ripping children from their parents at the border. Lawson stood side-by-side with Trump and far-right Republicans in support of ICE and their inhumane arrests and detentions. This is unacceptable,” Brown posted to Facebook Monday.

Lawson’s campaign manager Philip Singleton offered response Monday afternoon, suggesting that Brown was out of his depth.

“The Congressman’s stance is clear: It’s disgusting that this administration would rip children from the arms of their parents at our borders. There is no human decency in President Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy but abolishing ICE is simply not the solution,” Singleton said.

“It’s become abundantly clear, however, that Alvin Brown doesn’t know that ICE is also responsible for narcotics enforcement, human trafficking, firearm smugglers, counter-terrorism and investigating cyber crimes,” Singleton added.

“I guess it would make sense for Alvin Brown, a former Mayor with a record of high crime and increased murder rates, to want more drugs and illegal guns to get into our community,” Singleton continued, before refreshing some talking points rooted in oppo pushed earlier this summer.

“In ‘Absent Alvin’ Brown’s world, when crime and drugs are a problem, you fire hundreds of police officers, then make shady backdoor bond deals – like Eureka Gardens. ‘Absent Alvin’ has a record of not supporting the people and abolishing programs that make our communities safer but, now, he wants us to believe he would keep our children, families and those seeking refuge in America safe?”

Brown’s campaign, when contacted for response, reserved comment on Lawson’s critique of his time in office.

“Al Lawson has proven yet again that he’s nothing more than a Republican in Democratic clothing as his campaign rhetoric matches his votes supporting Donald Trump’s agenda. While Lawson and his team keep applauding this Administration’s attacks on our values, Alvin Brown is committed to fighting for the people of North Florida. In Congress, Alvin will fight for lasting policy change that defends democracy, advances economic opportunity for all, and protects civil and human rights – not defend an agency that inhumanely arrests domestic violence survivors, puts kids in cages and treats refugees like terrorists. We must rebuild this country’s broken immigration system, beginning with dismantling ICE and replacing it with something that actually reflects our values.”

Lawson’s civil liberties bona fides have come under fire recently from the ACLU, which gave him a rating of 67 — the second-lowest rating for a Democrat in Florida.

When asked about the rating, Lawson said “I don’t know. I was rated one of the top 10 or 12 freshmen in Congress. I’ve always supported them.”

“They can’t come up with any issue I’ve been against them on. They haven’t gotten in touch with me at any time,” Lawson said.

Brown announced Friday that he had raised over $165,000 in Q2, and had $144,360 cash-on-hand. Lawson, per his FEC report, kept pace with $136,514 raised — and more importantly, holds the cash-on-hand edge with $219,272.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at

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