Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brown Seeks Votes among Church Congregations; but It Would Take Divine Intervention to Get More Than a Few Votes, Expert Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brown Seeks Votes among Church Congregations; but It Would Take Divine Intervention to Get More Than a Few Votes, Expert Says

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. made it very clear: He wasn't going to endorse a mayoral candidate from the pulpit of Bethel Baptist Institutional Church.

But that didn't mean he couldn't welcome candidate Alvin Brown to his church one recent Sunday morning.

"You should get to know everybody who's running," said McKissick, leader of one of Jacksonville's most influential churches, told the crowd of about 500. "But we're glad to see Alvin Brown this morning. Alvin, it's good to see you."

The pastor of the 9,000-member, predominately African-American church continued.

"We need good leadership in our city," he said, and then paused. "Alvin, it's good to see you."

As the candidates jockey for position in the final week before Election Day, Brown is continuing to reach out to a key segment of his base: black churches and the influential pastors leading them.

Of course, religious institutions play an important role for other candidates, too: Mike Hogan, significantly, is a member of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, a political powerhouse whose support has proven decisive in some City Council elections. Audrey Moran and Rick Mullaney have both campaigned in churches, and both point to religious involvement being important in their lives.

But Brown sees churches as a key area to connect with voters, for both personal and political reasons.

"I've basically been going out and reaching out to the community and the faith-based organizations - the church - is my foundation," Brown said. "When I go to worship at church on Sunday, I'm myself."

So far, though, that support has not translated into a stampede of cast ballots.

On Sunday - touted as "Take A Soul to the Polls Day," traditionally a bellwether day for early voting, with church buses bringing citizens to the polls - only 49 people voted at the Gateway-area polling place that serves an area seen as a Brown strong house. For the week, that early voting site had the lowest turnout out of the 10 sites in the city.

Overall, only 713 people voted across the county on Sunday, the lowest turnout of the week, in which 3.68 percent of the electorate voted early. Also, Democrats are barely outpacing Republicans in early voting, despite the fact that Democrats typically dominate in that arena. Brown is a Democrat.

The Brown campaign expects a higher turnout this Sunday, campaign spokesman Dave Roman said, bolstered by a Saturday morning get-out-the-vote rally featuring African-American culture expert Michael Dyson and former Atlanta mayor and diplomat Andrew Young. The campaign has been talking to more churches that are planning to get voters to the polls.

However, it won't be enough for Brown to attract black churchgoers to vote for him, said Matt Corrigan, chairman of the political science department at the University of North Florida. …

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