JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two pastors named on an election flier being distributed by a group of African-American ministers said Thursday that they did not endorse the fliers.
Pastor Jeffrey Rumlin of The Dayspring Church and The Rev. H.T. Rhim of St. Joseph Missionary Baptist Church said they were not asked before their names were included on the fliers, which endorsed Gerald Wilkerson over Judge Mark Hulsey.
“As individuals, we were not asked for our names to be placed on any type of pastors pick presentation for the citizens of Jacksonville," Rumlin said. “We understand that in the passion of the political season, certain things can happen. But the hope and the prayer is that things like that don't happen in the future.”
Rumlin said he was concerned about his name being included because, particularly in the African-American church community, "congregants look to their pastoral leaders for guidance and for wisdom and for insight.”
He said he would tell his parishioners who he supports, if they ask him, but he would not tell anyone else who they should support.
The primary consensus of the ministers distributing the flier 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 being handed out at polling places around town 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.”
Rumlin said he and Rhim met with the other clergy members Thursday to discuss why their names were included without their permission.
“We can now move on from this issue and make sure the big issue remains at the forefront of everyone here in the city of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida and that is to make sure they get out to vote this coming Tuesday," Rumlin said.
Quick picks spark controversy
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.