Though we’ve been hearing all manner of unconfirmed political-announcement buzz lately – the return of Alex Sink, Val Demings for mayor, etc. – the only official Democratic announcement of any import came last week, and, at least on its face, it wasn’t very interesting. On Aug. 15, little-known Allie Braswell – current president of the Central Florida Urban League, former Disney diversity executive, former Marine – threw his underdog hat in the ring to go up against beloved Republican incumbent Jeff Atwater for Florida Chief Financial Officer. Atwater, you’ll note, makes a lot of noise about saving Floridians from horrible insurance companies while the state effectively invites insurance fraud in through the back door. Braswell – well, Braswell’s a black man with roots in Sanford, so you know what comes next.
Even with the death kiss of glowing praise from his party before Braswell could even be primaried (“Floridians deserve better than Jeff Atwater, who is looking out for the big special interests – not middle-class Floridians,” Florida Democratic Party chair Allison Tant said in a statement), even though Atwater has already spent $330,000 on the race without even having a challenger and has already served as Florida senate president – even though this all seems like a lock – the Republicans quickly leaped into the dark regions of politics: Braswell wanted George Zimmerman arrested after he killed Trayvon Martin; Braswell questions Stand Your Ground laws; Braswell is besties with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your first taste of the 2014 wedge.
In fairness, the leap to knee-jerk association doesn’t come from an unexpected source. The beloved Sunshine State News – the media arm of the Florida Chamber of Commerce – is sounding the Drudge siren this time, posting scandalous pictures as evidence of Braswell’s high-profile blackness, locked arm-in-arm with Jackson. Did you hear that? He hates guns and loves black people!
“Braswell even said the Stand Your Ground law gives Floridians more clearance to fire a gun than he did as a Marine,” the website warns, somewhat confusingly. Support our troops?
Anyway, conservatives could have foregone the histrionics and just waited for the other shoe to drop on its own. By the end of the weekend, Braswell’s three bankruptcies since the 1990s – uncovered by the Jacksonville Times-Union – led to his withdrawal from the race virtually before it even began. What a waste of perfectly horrible rhetoric!
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