North Florida has seen some upsets in congressional races in recent years and Alvin Brown is hoping another one will be shaping up this year.
On Tuesday, the former Jacksonville mayor launched his third bid for Congress as he jumped in against freshman Congressman Al Lawson, a fellow Democrat.
“These challenging times call for each of us to stand up and speak out about the kind of community in which we want to live. When I look at our region, our state, and our country, I know that we can do better. That's why I am running for Congress; together, we can do better,” Brown insisted on Tuesday. “North Florida deserves a pragmatic, visionary leader who will aggressively champion policies that create good-paying jobs, ensure economic and financial security for all, and improve our overall quality of life. From the countless families living paycheck to paycheck, to our young people graduating crippled by student debt, to our friends and neighbors who can't keep up with the out-of-control cost of healthcare. We must ensure that our servicemen and women have jobs and affordable housing when they return home from proudly serving our country. I want to empower those who are homeless, hopeless and living in despair so that everyone can reach their God-given potential and live the American Dream.
“I have been blessed to serve the people across the United States, during the Clinton administration and then later as the first African-American Mayor of Jacksonville,” Brown added. “Together we have revitalized rural and urban communities to improve the quality of life, created over 36,000 local jobs, invested in affordable housing, and built lasting communities across Jacksonville. Together, we can build opportunities for everyone and put Washington back to work for the people of Florida.
“My commitment to you is to provide increased opportunities for everyone from Gadsden County to Duval County -- that's why I am asking you to join together with us from the very beginning, help us rebuild Florida into a state that works for us all,” Brown continued.
Brown launched his campaign after former Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who Lawson beat in the primaries in 2016, was sent to prison due to fraud connected with a nonprofit. With the former congresswoman starting her sentence on Monday, Alvin Brown, who ran against her twice in the Democratic primaries back in the 1990s, got in the race the day after.
The former Jacksonville mayor is hoping to do better than his old rival did against Lawson two years ago. While she was hindered by legal troubles, Corrine Brown was also hurt by the latest round of congressional redistricting. Instead of stretching south to Orlando as the various incarnations of her district had for more than two decades, the congresswoman now found it stretching west to Tallahassee where Lawson was well established from his almost three decades in the Legislature and two previous bids for Congress. Despite more than 60 percent of the district being in the Jacksonville TV market, Lawson prevailed in the primary, taking 48 percent while Corrine Brown pulled 39 percent.
Speaking to Florida Politics on Tuesday, Lawson insisted his new opponent would go down to defeat if he followed the same playbook Corrine Brown did two years ago.
“It won’t work,” Lawson told Florida Politics. “You have to be concerned about the whole district. You can’t just run a campaign out of Duval.”
Lawson also slammed his new opponent, insisting he “failed as mayor” and “wants to split the district.”
Despite the talk, Lawson has the First Coast on his mind, announcing at the end of last week that Paul Tutwiler, the executive director of the Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation (NJCDC), as his guest for the State of the Union Address.
“The NJCDC offers services to 25,000 Jacksonville residents, many residing in Eastside, Durkeeville, Moncrife and Ribault Scenic neighborhoods,” Lawson’s office noted. “These communities were drastically damaged during Hurricane Irma.”
“Mr. Tutwiler stepped up to assist residents in our community affected by Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever documented in the Atlantic Ocean,” Lawson said. “He is the epitome of ‘my brother’s keeper,’ helping neighbors to recover and ensuring their safety. His hand-on support and invaluable presence made the recovery effort for those most effected in the great city of Jacksonville less of a burden. I am honored to have Mr. Tutwiler join me for the State of the Union.”
Lawson was not the only challenger in North Florida to knock off an incumbent member of Congress in the primary in recent years. Back in 2012, Ted Yoho pulled off the upset, knocking off longtime Congressman Cliff Stearns in the Republican primary.