Mayoral race has Democrats feuding
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
In the aftermath of the recent Gainesville mayoral runoff, a rift is widening between Alachua County's Democratic Party leadership and members of a local black Democratic organization.
The Democratic Executive Committee is lobbying the state party to revoke the Alachua County Democratic Black Caucus' charter because members supported Republican Ed Braddy over incumbent Democrat Craig Lowe, a DEC member, in the nonpartisan race.
Braddy, a former city commissioner, unseated Lowe by a comfortable margin in the April 16 runoff.
“Our relationship with the local African-American community has been negatively impacted and Gainesville will now have a Republican mayor in part because of the activities of the ACDBC and some of its members,” Democratic Executive Committee officers said in an April 17 letter to the state party.
“Thank you for taking action on this matter promptly before further damage is done,” the letter reads.
One of the black caucus members, Charles Goston, dismissed the allegations as “frivolous, a smear campaign” and a “white superiority move.”
Goston said the DEC and the state party do not support minority candidates locally. He pointed out that state party contributions to Lowe's campaign totaled some $19,000 between the regular election and runoff. By contrast, former Commissioner Scherwin Henry, who is black, received nothing from the groups during his mayoral campaign.
The DEC letter was signed by local party chair Robert Prather, vice chair Evelyn Foxx, who is president of the Alachua County branch of the NAACP, state committeeman Terry Fleming and state committeewoman Jeanna Mastrodicasa, a former city commissioner.
Prather and Foxx declined comment Thursday. State party officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The letter specifically mentions caucus members Goston, Juanita Miles-Hamilton and Barbara Sharpe, a former School Board member, as Braddy supporters.
Among the things DEC leaders said Goston, Miles-Hamilton and Sharpe were seen doing: wearing Braddy T-shirts, holding Braddy campaign signs on street corners and appearing in interviews or pictures in The Sun, on television and on the conservative talk radio show Talk of the Town.
The letter stated that WCJB-TV 20's coverage of Braddy's celebration party showed Miles-Hamilton at the event, noting that she is visible at 35 seconds and 58 seconds into the broadcast.
“We're in a nonpartisan race for mayor, and I supported the best candidate,” she said Thursday.
The letter is the latest move in what is becoming a deepening chasm between the groups.
Miles-Hamilton, the treasurer of the black caucus, said she supported Lowe in his 2010 campaign but grew disillusioned with the way he handled the position of mayor.
This year, she served as the campaign manager for fellow Democrat Henry, who did not make it to the April 16 runoff.
Miles-Hamilton pointed out that members of the county's Democratic leadership and the state party favored one Democrat over another when they backed Lowe and did not support Henry.
In the final days before the March 19 regular election, records show that the state party contributed $2,500 to Lowe's campaign but gave no financial support to Henry.
During the campaign, the caucus hosted two candidate debates, and Lowe did not attend either. He missed the runoff debate to attend a campaign fundraiser hosted by Foxx.
At both debates, Goston served as moderator and routinely criticized the current City Commission majority, which includes six members of the DEC. At the March debate, he said city policies “destroy lives” across the city.
At the April runoff debate, Goston criticized Lowe in questions to Braddy, saying the city has been “exposed to the lack of leadership for three years.”
The tone toward Braddy was more positive.
“Have-nots in the city of Gainesville that lie east of Waldo Road, how do you motivate them to know what I know, that you are for the people?” Goston asked Braddy at one point.
Goston said state party leadership and local elected Democrats who are members of the DEC are not concerned about the economic issues facing the predominantly black areas of town.
“These Democrats don't care about us until it's election time,” he said. “If they did, the east side of Gainesville would look a lot different.”