Democrat Primary Action

Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee)

Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 1, 2018 — A day after Florida former Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) reported to prison to serve her sentence for public corruption, her successor, Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee), drew a major Democratic primary challenger.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (D) announced Monday that he will enter the party primary in FL-5 against Rep. Lawson, the man who defeated Brown in the 2016 Democratic nomination contest after her legal trouble became public news but before her conviction.

The 5th District was newly configured in the state Supreme Court’s 2016 mid-decade redistricting map. Instead of stretching south from Jacksonville to Orlando to create a majority minority CD, the court map changed the draw to move west into a Jacksonville-Tallahassee split. The move forced then-Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) to retire after one term because her previous 2nd District had been divided into this new 5th District seat with Rep. Brown as the incumbent and an open Republican CD.

Lawson, a former state senate minority leader, is also a 28-year veteran of the Florida legislature. Taking advantage of Rep. Brown’s legal problems and that Tallahassee had been added to the district, Lawson racked up a 48-39 percent Democratic primary victory, and easily won the safely Democratic seat in November.

A Lawson-Brown primary will once again pit two candidates with distinct political bases, one from Tallahassee and the other from Jacksonville, against each other. This race promises to be competitive, but won’t be settled until August 28.


On the heels of a publicly released poll showing Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D) crushing fellow Democrat Joe Moreno, a Chicago Alderman, and all other contenders, the latter man announced that he is withdrawing from the campaign. This makes Commissioner Garcia a lock to claim the Democratic nomination on March 20. He will then easily advance to win the seat next November. Remaining the in the Democratic primary are Chicago Alderman Raymond Lopez and non-profit group executives Sol Flores and Richard Gonzalez, but they are now considered long shot candidates.

Veteran Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) is retiring and has endorsed Garcia. The Cook County local official also enjoys a strong base within the Democratic political machine, thus signaling his overall strength as a party candidate.


Another Democratic congressional veteran was challenged yesterday, this one in the Massachusetts primary.

Boston at-large City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley announced that she will enter the Democratic primary for the Boston-Cambridge district that Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville) has represented since coming to Congress in 1999.

Earlier in the year, Cambridge City Councilman Nadeem Mazan (D) had entered the race to challenge Rep. Capuano, but decided to move to the open 3rd District when Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) announced that she would retire. Late last week, Mazan dropped his congressional bid there largely because MA-3 is too far from his Cambridge political base.

Councilwoman Pressley was first elected in 2009, and re-elected in 2013, placing first among all at-large candidates. She is the first woman of color to be elected as a member of the Boston municipal panel.

The 7th District begins north of the Charles River in Middlesex County, capturing Rep. Capuano’s home of Somerville, the town of Chelsea, and a part of Cambridge. It then traverses the river to encompass the Back Bay portion of Boston and the South End, before moving south through Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, and then ending in the town of Randolph. It is a reliably Democratic seat, but could become interesting in a party primary battle.

Rep. Capuano was elected in 1998 from the previous 8th District, replacing Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Boston), who retired. He’s had little re-election trouble, but fared poorly when he entered the 2010 special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D), attracting only 28 percent against then-Attorney General Martha Coakley in the special Democratic primary. Coakley would then lose the special general to Republican Scott Brown.

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