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Back again: LJ Holloway looks for a 2020 rematch with Rep. Al Lawson


Another primary challenger emerges for Al Lawson

LJ Holloway finished 3rd in the 2016 primary. She wants a rematch.

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson survived a competitive Democratic primary ahead of his re-election in 2018, and he will have to do the same in 2020.

On Monday, L.J. Holloway announced her candidacy for the party’s nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Holloway is familiar to voters in the district. She launched her first campaign for the seat in 2015, as then-incumbent Corrine Brown was mulling running in a different district.

Brown ultimately ran for re-election, though donors shut her out under the shadow of what would be a career-ending indictment for fraudulent use of donor funds.

Lawson defeated both Brown and Holloway with under 50 percent of the vote, with Holloway’s votes largely coming from Duval, cannibalizing Brown’s share.

In 2018, the well-known former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown challenged Lawson.

Despite raising money and having a professional campaign apparatus, Brown floundered west of Jacksonville, and lost by double digits.

It is an open question whether Holloway will have the resources former Mayor Brown did.

Holloway never demonstrated real fundraising traction as a candidate in the 2016 cycle, which could be trouble against Lawson, now an entrenched incumbent.

Lawson raised $112,593 in the three months ending Sept. 30, against $27,377 spent. He has $107,828 on hand, but is almost certain to ramp up his efforts as the election nears.

As is often the case, Lawson attracted interest from across the political spectrum, with donations from Brian Ballard, a lobbyist who had a key role in the ascension of President Donald Trump.

Some corporations that typically show a Republican lean in their donations, such as the Online Lenders Alliance and U.S. Sugar, donated as a corporate entity also.

Holloway won’t even be the only Jacksonville candidate in the field.

Albert Chester, a Jacksonville pharmacist, is an active candidate.

Chester’s campaign account is underwater, with $30,000 in debts against under $20,000 in cash on hand.

This number is just a skosh short of the “$250,000 to $300,000” he said he’d need to run competitively.

The winner of the Democratic primary looks likely to face yet another in a series of quixotic political novices running under the Republican banner.

Matthew Lusk, a MacClenny bookseller, got national press after filing for his enthusiastic endorsement of theories of the QAnon movement.

Lusk peripatetically keeps a blog, with a pithy March entry offering insight into both his worldview and literary style.

“Some of my issues have gotten people ‘Arkancided,’ so just for the record: I’m not suicidal or accident prone,” Lusk notes, seemingly referring to conspiracy theories about the Bill Clinton presidency.

CD 5 runs east to west on Interstate 10, tying together gerrymandered portions of Jacksonville and Tallahassee with a carefully mapped frolic through rural areas in between the two major cities.

It is designed to perform for Blue Dog Democratic candidates, and Tallahassee veteran Lawson is one that most Republicans with skin in the game can live with.

Holloway’s launch video is below. She will have a press conference Tuesday morning in Jacksonville launching her bid.

In the video, she asserts that nothing has changed for the district since Lawson was elected, and presents herself as a “bridge builder … a fighter.”

“The same issues in 2016 … still plague the 5th Congressional District,” Holloway said.

Holloway has political experience, including work for former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek.

However, she is up against a political lifer who is an institution in much of the 11-county district, and the road is uphill through August.

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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