Corrine Brown and the race for Congress: A look at local politics

Tiffany Butler

What happened?

U.S. Representative Corrine Brown was indicted July 8, on 24 counts of conspiracy and fraud, stemming from alleged use of charity funds for personal expenses. Brown’s chief of staff, Elias Simmons, and the president of the organization in question, Carla Wiley are also facing charges.

The trio was accused of soliciting $800,000 for Virginia-based One Door For Education—Brown maintains a home in the area due to her position in Congress. The charity was never registered as a non-profit, despite claims by Brown that it was, and the indictment alleges funds were used for expenses such as box-seats at a Beyonce concert and a Jaguars game, auto repairs and travel expenses. Only $1,200 of the money raised went towards education.

Corrine Brown leaving the Federal Courthouse after indictment charges were read. Photo courtesy of WJXT.
Corrine Brown leaving the Federal Courthouse after indictment charges were read. Photo courtesy of WJXT.

If convicted on all charges Brown faces up to 357 years in prison and fines of $4.8 million. Simmons faces 355 years with fines of up to $4.75 million. Wiley has already pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud.

In addition to the charity scandal Brown’s Congressional District 5, was recently re-drawn to stretch from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, rather than from Jacksonville to Orlando.

What does it mean for Jacksonville?

Brown has been in Congress since 1993, and is up for re-election this fall. A loss in the race could leave Duval County with a much different type of Congressional representation than the area is used to.

The new district puts Brown in a region with a significantly lower minority population, of which Brown has been a strong advocate for. In a recent UNF poll, Brown held a narrow three percent lead over Al Lawson, another Democratic candidate.

“If Duval voters don’t turn out in large numbers, Lawson has a path to victory,” said Michael Binder, UNF Public Opinions Research Lab director. With 40 percent of voters in the newly defined District 5 still undecided, the race is expected to be close.

Primary elections take place August 30, and general elections are November 8, 2016.


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