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Melissa Nelson Set To Shine In Second State Attorney Forum In Two Days

Jacksonville Bar Association

The candidates vying to unseat State Attorney Angela Corey will share a stage with her this evening at the second candidate forum in as many days.  

Last night’s forum focused on the relationship between police, prosecutors and Jacksonville’s black community.

Corey, a Republican, fended off attacks from two Republican challengers — Melissa Nelson and self-proclaimed political outsider Wes White — on issues like juvenile justice and law enforcement disparities among people of color.

Florida Politics writer A.G. Gancarski, who attended Tuesday’s event, said Corey had an interesting defense for the closed primary process that’s keeping Democrats from voting in her race.

“This crowd was a different kind of crowd.  It was largely African-American. It was largely Democrat and it was not favorably predisposed to Corey,” Gancarski said. “She made the comment ... along the lines of martians voting – ‘If martians were allowed to vote by the state Legislature, I would support that.”

Gancarski said, in a surprising move, White appealed to the crowd by acknowledging he’s privileged because of his white skin color.

He said he expects today’s “button-up” Jacksonville Bar Association forum will be more of Nelson’s moment to shine. Gancarski has previously described her as the candidate of the donor class, noting her strong support from local Republican power brokers.

“Nelson has been criticized by White and by Corey both as being the candidate of the criminal defense bar and that’s an attack that works with a Republican audience because they like the tough on crime prosecutor, they like that persona,” he said. “But when you’re dealing with the Jacksonville Bar Association, the criminal defense bar is a significant part of that membership.”

Public Defender Matt Shirk was invited but will not attend, and his opponent, former Judge Charles Cofer, is expected to speak. The forum at the Wells Fargo Center downtown starts tonight at 5:30. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.