The African American Council of Christian Clergy (AACCC) of Central Florida reached out to Senate, House of Representatives, Comptroller, State Attorney and Judicial candidates this election season to have what was first called a “meet and greet” by some. It then turned into a forum and then a action-packed debate. In the invitation, the AACCC stated, the organization is a council of multi-denominational congregations over a myriad of residential districts. “Each of the 60 congregations have been impacted by injustice and social sin,” stated the AACCC.
Stewart Moore of WESH Channel 2 helped to moderate the debate with Pastor Larry G. Mills of Mt. Sinai and President-Elect of the AACCC/Candidate for House of Representatives District 45, Kelvin Cobaris. Former Miss America Ericka Dunlap was scheduled to show but had a death in her family and was understandably absent.
The forum’s invitation stated, “We have the moral and civic duty to change politics and systems which create conditions that oppress the body of Christ. One of the ways we can do this is by voting locally, statewide and nationally for candidates that can act justly, love mercifully and walk humbly.”
Here’s where feathers were ruffled.
This forum was put on by a 501(c)3 organization and was not neutral. Regardless of the time being shortened for some candidates and lead-in questions being asked to help certain candidates by moderators, the truth was found solidly in the incumbents. Candidates have the opportunity to say all they want about the hope and change they wish to see. They aren’t in office, yet so what they may say sounds good, preachy and right. Wrong. Some of them didn’t even appear to know how to do the job they were fighting so hard to get while others were banking on winning the election on one issue only.
However, incumbents are the ones who can truly tell you what shape our government is in and many of them that were on that stage know how to fix it. Let’s be clear, government is no place for on-the-job training. It’s ok if you’re a community organizer and activist and you want to ignite change but before you compare yourself to President Obama remember that he had a Law Degree and was a Senator at the time he worked his way up to the Presidency.
Incumbent Democratic State Representative Bruce Antone spoke candidly about his accomplishments in the House of Representative and his ability to pass legislation and secure major funding for projects and organizations in District 46, the largely urban and inner city district he represents in the Florda House of Representatives. So, let’s be clear. The incumbent in the District 46 race is far more experienced than his opponent. As I sat in the audience and listened to the debate between the candidates for Comptroller, I heard a woman next to me ask, “what is a comptroller?” Now, I’m not judging her at all. Many don’t know what a Comptroller is and many people work two sometimes three jobs in our community so they are not as in-tune with politics as you and I. But, if you don’t know what a Comptroller is, it’s time to jump off Facebook, whip out Google and start clicking buttons to see what impact that office has on your life and most of all, the finances of where we live.
What’s near and dear to me is the State Attorney’s race. This race is important because most people don’t know what a State Attorney does. Our State Attorney, Jeff Ashton, is a prosecutor. He is not our defense attorney.
He is supposed to put people in jail. But our State Attorney just so happens to be an advocate for us as well. He is our advocate for crime happening in our community. He prosecutes people for wrongdoing. He’s also changed the game, so to speak, so that children who make mistakes don’t go to jail or prison as they once did. He put to use a Civil Citations program so our young black and brown children can be without those records following them for the rest of their lives. I’ve said this time and time again. I had a friend who was murdered here in Orlando and to this day, we don’t know who killed him. We will never feel the justice many get seeing the person who harmed their loved one put behind bars.
As a people, we don’t quite understand, collectively, what we have in the State Attorney that is sitting in that seat now because we won’t look past the color of his skin. Before you call me biased, call him brilliant. Call him fair. And call him much better than that last guy. Please, open your mind to the information I’m about to put before you.
The previous State Attorney ran an office that I believe to be racially unjust. The number of attorneys of color were few. Since Jeff Ashton has taken over, the diversity in that office has now increased to well over 10% and now there are attorneys that are Black, Latino, Muslim, Asian trying cases alongside their White colleagues. The website is also translated in French so that our Haitian brothers and sisters can get the information they need as well as they are a significant part of our community.
What bothered me in the debate was the lack of factual information given by the opponent. The State Attorney’s opponent had the audacity to insinuate the lack of color in that office. She worked there under Jeff Ashton for two years and was promoted twice according to her own words. She was a product of his ambition to hire attorneys of color. But now, she’s been recruited and funded by the Vose’s, a white male Republican who worked for and helped propel the racially biased office before Jeff Ashton took office. And let me not forget to say this Bill Vose guy “just so” happens to be a write-in candidate in this race. Let me explain why that’s a problem.
With the opponent in this race’s blessing, Vose put himself in the race to close the primaries. Because of that only Democrats can now vote in the election. This was done so Jeff Ashton’s opponent could fair better in this race. Talk about disenfranchising all voters! And if anyone tells you otherwise, including your Pastor, tell him to dig deeper and to stick to the good word in the Bible, because a biased church shouldn’t be so deeply involved in such a process.
Ashton is a Democrat and has fought hard to put together a team of people that represent this community. As an attorney in this community, his opponent is funded by Republicans, a group who is trying to take over the Black Lives Matter movement from young black people and his opponent was less than truthful in her “sermon” at the debate and forced her way into the minds of people who should just dig a little deeper and ask a few more questions than they ever have before.
Our community is being lied to and cheated and regardless of the color of someone’s skin that should never, ever happen.
One lady stood up and said Jeff Ashton sent her to prison for 15 years for driving a getaway car that “hurt somebody”. Wrong. The victim in that case was killed. She set up a good man, a black man, to be robbed and he was shot multiple times and died. That was a murder, not a wound as she initially tried to phrase it. In addition, she agreed to a plea of 15 years. Jeff Ashton didn’t “put” her anywhere. She did that to herself.
All I ask is that we ask the deep questions and come to the table with an open mind and open heart to be able to receive the information that is before us.
Lastly, I was approached by Representative Bruce Antone’s opponent weeks ago at a meeting. She attacked me with words, because I mentioned she had an endorsement from her Pastor Derrick McCrae. It was true. She did have an endorsement from her Pastor. And, my God it’s only Facebook! I didn’t have a dog in that fight. I can’t imagine voting for and sending someone to Tallahassee to represent me who attacks constituents and voters because they may disagree with them.
My point is to be sure you ask the right questions that will lead to the best vote that you can make this season. Putting people in office that have little to no experience doesn’t help us. As for the State Attorney’s race, mark my words, if that office goes backwards to the way it was before, simply by using a person with a good sermon and black skin to do the dirty work of those who dogged us before, we can kiss our advances forward, a great big “goodbye”.