Pastors' quick-pick flier sparks debate

Group opposed to Judge Mark Hulsey to distribute election fliers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An election flier being distributed by a group of African-American ministers has stirred some controversy.

For most of the races, the individual pastors involved will fill in the candidates that they support before handing out the fliers their congregations.

But one oval on the quick-pick ballot is already filled in: Gerald Wilkerson over Judge Mark Hulsey.

The primary consensus of the ministers is that they want to defeat Hulsey, who was reassigned last month after a judicial panel found probable cause that he made sexist and racist comments.

Hulsey denies the claims.

The pastors' quick-pick ballot that will be handed out at polling places around town starting Wednesday details why the ministers want Hulsey off the bench.

“The reason is because we want Hulsey out of there. We think he has violated judicial principles,” said Pastor Frederick Newbill, one of the ministers organizing the effort. “You can’t take a chance on a judge. He makes decisions on people's lives that impacts them forever and impacts their families forever.”

Hulsey campaign consultant John Daigle said the flier is illegal because it left blank the line that explained who paid for the advertisement.

“This group has been doing a ton of campaign activities,” Daigle said. “It’s an illegal flier, and I’m not going to comment.”

Daigle said that election laws require whoever pays for a flier to include the name of the person or group who funded it. But Newbill said the individual pastors will pay for the fliers, not their churches, and that they can choose to fill in their names or leave it blank.

“It is legal. You can put out up to $5,000, and certainly this is way under $5,000,” Newbill said. “But it is legal for individuals to do that, so we’ve looked into all that.”

Newbill, who supports incumbent Corrine Brown’s challenger, Lashonda Holloway, said that the majority of the pastors involved support Brown.

They are also in favor of the half-cent sales tax extension to fix the city's pension mess.

Rick Mullaney, with Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute, said the flier likely won’t impact Brown’s race much, but it could impact a judicial race.

“It could have some effect, because this is an example of a race you don’t know a lot about,” Mullaney said. “Lawyers may know a lot about them, but the public at large is not well-educated about them. So when you see a quick-pick, and it appears to be unanimous, it could nudge some people not familiar with that race.”

Daigle said he will probably file a complaint with the state elections commission over the ministers in charge of the effort, including Newbill.

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