JACKSONVILLE – The leader of a coalition of community groups that has called for the resignation of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey says coalition members will change their political party affiliation in order to vote against Corey in the August primary.
Jacksonville pastor and coalition President R.L. Gundy told the Florida Record of the plan involving individual members of the coalition, which is comprised of the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition, Mad Moms: Mothers on a Mission, the Community Leadership Coalition for Justice and Jacksonville Progressive Coalition, among others. He also said the group will announce its strategy to oust Corey during a press conference on Friday.
The move comes in response to the last minute write-in of Republican attorney Kenny Leigh, reportedly with the help of Corey’s campaign manager, Alexander Pantinakisa.
Attorney Melissa Nelson and attorney Wesley White, also both Republicans, had previously filed to run against Corey. If they were the only three candidates in the race, all registered voters could vote in the primary.
When Leigh filed as a write-in, the election closed to everyone who was not a Republican, so one of Jacksonville’s most high-profile races this year will be decided by approximately 320,000 registered Republicans in the 4th Judicial Circuit.
Gundy said the coalition is upset that Corey "intentionally had someone get in the race to block over 400,000 people – that is the disenfranchisement not just of blacks, but the disenfranchisement of a lot of other voters."
Gundy said members of the coalition believe Corey is "the worst in the world at incarcerating youth."
The coalition pointed out in an April news conference that Corey is responsible for prosecuting more death penalty cases in Duval County than anywhere else in the country and notes that the county ranks third in the country for the number of minor offenders charged as adults, most of whom are African-American.
Members also blame Corey for the acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2012 in the murder of Trayvon Martin and for locking Marissa Alexander up after Alexander was found guilty of firing a warning shot against her allegedly abusive husband in 2010.
Gundy said reports claim that "there is no rhyme or reason why she is making the decisions that she makes."
"Human rights reports say she is biased in her decisions and the ACLU came out and said that she's biased in relationship to the death penalty," Gundy said. "Based on those reports and in light of concerns that people have had after the trials that have taken place – Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander – these are issues that we are now saying enough is enough."
Gundy said coalition members are willing to do whatever it takes to oust Corey from office.
"There as an old saying by Malcolm X that says 'by any means necessary,'" he said. "A lot of people took that saying out of context, but in this context, if we need to change our political party to vote, then that's what we will do because this attorney general's race is one of the most important races in this nation."
Gundy said the coalition's decision to change political parties is based on "having someone in office who is fair and consistent," and is more important than being a Republican or a Democrat.
"The reports indicate that there has not been consistency; that there has not been fairness and that the office is racially biased," Gundy said. "Therefore, we feel it's time for us to rally the people."
As for Corey, she has denied that her office is racially biased.
Corey’s spokeswoman Jackelyn Barnard said following the April press conference that the coalition's "focus is on defendants; our focus is on our victims."
"We are proud of our record of seeking justice for all of our victims, including the black victims who are the primary target of the black defendants we prosecute," Barnard said. "To suggest State Attorney Angela Corey should resign because too many juvenile cases are being sent to adult court is ridiculous."
According to Barnard, of 3,250 juvenile cases opened in 2015, 95 cases were sent to adult court, ranking the circuit seventh out of 20 circuits in juvenile direct file cases.
“The facts show only the most serious offenders are prosecuted in adult court," Barnard said. "In fact, one of the last cases transferred to adult court involves a 16-year-old who is charged with shooting and killing 22-month-old Aiden McClendon. No protest will change the way we handle these violent offenders who choose to break the law.”
Corey faces challenger White in the August primary and, despite heavy criticism, is favored to win re-election.