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What a difference two years can make. Seems like only yesterday that Corrine was spearheading a legal effort to investigate Duval County’s 2000 Election Irregularities. But if her conduct at the 2003 State of the Union Address was any benchmark, the Representative seems to have made peace with the un-elected President. At more than a few points when television cameras found her, she was applauding the words of the man whose ascension to the Presidency she so bitterly opposed.
But Brown would know a thing or two about winning essentially rigged elections. The political cause closest to her heart is protecting the gerrymandering that allowed her election to Congress from Florida’s District 3 in 1992. Her district is drawn such that the Florida Times-Union was led to speculate that she is unbeatable by anyone but a “minority”, before concluding that she was a “good fit for her district.” The Florida GOP apparently agrees; thwarted Republican candidate Ishah Wright accused the Party of sabotaging her then-nascent campaign as part of a quid pro quo deal. Wright maintained that the Republicans protected Brown’s seat in exchange for the Democrats not seriously challenging Republican US Representative Ric Keller downstate.
“I was told the Republican Party is ‘the same concept as the mob,’ and I was asked if I want to end up like Chandra Levy, with my head severed from my body,” Wright wrote to President Bush. Soon after this letter went out to the greatest President of this century, the staunchly Republican Florida Times-Union began spotlighting various fabrications and inconsistencies in Candidate Wright’s personal record. Wright was — justly, perhaps — described as “crazy” by Duval County GOP head Tom Slade. Towson Frazier, spokesman for the state Republican Party, likewise commented that “”I don’t know how firm her grasp is on reality. The Republican Party would obviously never threaten anyone or make a deal like she’s talking about.”
Perhaps Ishah Wright’s worries of ending up like Chandra Levy were unfounded. By the time Wright dropped out of the District 3 race, the writing on her campaign website evidenced an unhinged mind:
“A few weeks ago I announced that I dropped out of the race for congress. I humbly realize that I have no training or experience for such a task. I would like to appologize to anyone whom I may have offended by running. I have always been a lover, not a fighter…a peacemaker. Running for congress helped me to be more openminded and more tolerant of other views. In fact one view that I have recently changed is my opinion of the Elian Gonzalez situation. Being part Hispanic, I used to disagree with Elian being sent back to Cuba. However, my Cuban father, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease (like Janet Reno) told me that Elian really did belong with his father. I stand corrected. I have a new respect for all of our political leaders, including a new respect and love for Janet Reno. It is easy for us to criticize our leaders, however we would have more mercy and understanding for them if we walked a day in their shoes. I stand corrected on many issues. I am becoming a democrat, but I have decided not to ever run for office again. My tender heart is not made for politics. I am not becoming a Democrat to anger my Republican friends, and I hope that the Republican Party will forgive me for all of my remarks which may have offended them. I publically take back any negative statements that I have made. I don’t want to offend anyone. I want to live in peace with my family. I want to be a better mom and wife.”
With candidates so linguistically gifted stepping to the fore, GOP officials might be forgiven for claiming Brown was unbeatable. Certainly, the five-term Congresswoman couldn’t have been seriously challenged by a neophyte politician as duplicitous as she was addled. But it seemed that no matter how attractive the candidate might be, the Florida GOP was unwilling to back her.
Consider the case of Jennifer Carroll, who decided in October 2002 that she wanted to take another crack at unseating Brown that November. On the surface, Carroll seemed like a standard-bearer for black Republican women straight out of central casting. Carroll spent twenty years in the Navy, and ran for office with every intention of rubberstamping the Bush agenda. Despite the candidate’s willingness to espouse and endorse all manner of Republican foolishness to get elected, Republican party officials greeted her intention to run coldly. “We’ve tried and failed to whip Corrine Brown on any number of occasions,” said Duval GOP Chairman Tom Slade. “But there’s an old saying in Southern politics that there ain’t no education in the third, fourth or fifth kick of a mule.”
And indeed there ain’t, Tom. Best to put all them black folks into one district and give them their uncontested Democratic representative, so y’all can keep that there vote suppressed. Best to let sleepin’ dawgs lie. She’s unbeatable, as your “opposition” party and its fair-n-balanced local paper never tire of saying. No big deal that Brown has lied to the IRS, filed false financial disclosure reports, received payoffs from African millionaires, and ran private businesses that stand as rank examples of embezzlement and embarrassment. Longtime Brown associate Oliver Roster described Brown to a tee when he said “she’s always pulling a scam on someone. Somebody, somewhere, got the money for her. What we don’t know yet is what she had to do or promise to get it.”
By current standards, those words read downright Presidential.
ANTHONY GANCARSKI, a frequent contributor to CounterPunch, is the author of 2001’s UNFORTUNATE INCIDENTS. Comments are welcome at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com.