Days after an occasionally feisty forum under the auspices of the Tallahassee Democrat, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and his two primary challengers from Jacksonville squared off a second time … this time on their home turf, via host group Jacksonville Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.
Lawson, vying for his third term representing Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and the Busy Bee Caucus in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, batted off attacks from hometown opponents Albert Chester and LaShonda Holloway.
Lawson entered the forum with myriad advantages, including incumbency itself, $200,000 on hand as of the end of August, and a proven ability to hold down the western part of the district in elections against higher-profile Jacksonville opponents Corrine Brown and Alvin Brown in past elections, cutting into their Duval margins in the process.
With two lightly financed candidates vying for the Jacksonville vote, the forum was a chance to bring their case to the limited subset of voters who watch political forums on Facebook Live.
But the pyrotechnics that have characterized this campaign at times were largely absent in what was a restrained exchange of ideas.
Chester, a former FAMU quarterback and pharmacist, said he offered “bold new leadership” in his intro statement.
Chester, when asked what he would do differently than Lawson, described his “energy and passion,” and blamed Lawson for the district having had decades of stalled economic growth.
Holloway, ran third in a three-way primary in 2016, losing to Lawson and Brown but getting enough of the vote to allow Lawson to win without a majority.
When asked how she would differ from Lawson, she said she’d “listen to the will of the people, not lobbyists, not special interests.”
An alum of the Congressional office of Rep. Carrie Meek, Holloway has a law degree from the University of Florida, and she distinguished herself from Lawson, a “charter school lobbyist.”
“We need someone to stand up and say enough is enough,” Holloway affirmed.
Lawson for his part noted his record of accomplishment, a “report card” that saw him take credit for coronavirus relief funds coming to Jacksonville.
“As I travel through the district, they’ve been real pleased with the money we’ve put in their pocket through this pandemic,” Lawson said. “I’d stack my record up against anybody.”
The winner of this primary will face a Republican opponent, either Roger Wagoner or Gary Adler, but the seat is drawn to be a Democratic hold.
Lawson won the general election with nearly two-thirds of the vote in 2018.