Jacksonville Leaders Call on Leigh to Withdraw
Voting and Civil Rights Organizations Call on Write-In Candidate to Step Aside in Order to All Voters a Choice for the State Attorney’s Race
Jacksonville, FL – Jacksonville civil and voting rights leaders, including members of New Florida Majority, State Senator Audrey Gibson, African-American Ministers Leadership Conference, and the Jacksonville Young Democrats called on attorney Kenny Leigh (R) to withdraw his write-in candidacy for the Fourth District State’s Attorney race.
Those attending a Monday morning press conference outside the Duval Country Supervisor of Elections office said that Leigh’s candidacy, filed by Florida Fourth District State’s Attorney Angela Corey’s campaign manager, Alexander Pantinakis, effectively bars African-Americans from participating in the state’s August 30 primary because it closes the primary to non-Republican challengers.
“At least 96 percent of Black voters in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties are not registered as Republicans,” said New Florida Majority Regional Director Moné Holder. “This means that more than 167,000 African American voters registered as Democrats and Independents in these three counties will be unable to participate in the upcoming primary.”
“This is an example of how to disenfranchise” said Elder Lee Harris of the African-American Ministers Leadership Conference.
“When justice and proper representation are on the table, all people who may find a need for such justice and proper representation should be able to choose whom they trust. I believe it is time for real campaign finance reform which is really the crux of this scenario,” said State Senator Audrey Gibson.
In Florida, primaries are closed once four candidates, regardless of party, are on the ballot. With other Republican candidates, Wes White and Melissa Nelson, already in the race, the addition of Leigh and the incumbent Corey means no other candidates can run for the post.
Other groups that were in attendance Monday included the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition, the Duval Democratic Black Caucus, Democratic Women’s Information Network, MAD MOMS, Jacksonville Leadership Coalition and many others.
PATTERNS OF DISENFRANCHISMENT
The maneuver is a familiar one that has been used to disenfranchise local voters before. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If Leigh withdraws, then Democrats will be allowed to vote in the Aug. 30 primaries — even if the choice is among all Republicans. Otherwis3, the primary will become closed only among the political parties of the four candidates — in this case, Republicans.
Furthermore, Leigh’s candidacy would ensure that the general election becomes a contest between the write-in candidate (in this case, a Republican) and the primary winner (guaranteed to be Republican).
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