Two more candidates have filed to run for the Florida House seat left open by state Rep. Ramon Alexander’s exit amid a sexting scandal from what had been a quiet and uncontested re-election campaign.
Gregory James, a local pastor known for his efforts to help incarcerated people re-enter society, and Sharon Lettman-Hicks, a consulting firm owner and CEO of an organization that fights for the civil rights of Black gays and lesbians, recently filed for the District 8 race.
Lettman-Hicks and James join a crowded Democratic primary field that includes five other candidates: Hubert Brown, a lawyer; Trish Brown, a community advocate; Gallop Franklin, a pharmacist and college professor; Delaitre Hollinger, a historic preservationist; and Marie Rattigan, a community organizer.
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Alexander, first elected in 2016, bowed out of the race last month after a former Florida A&M University athletics official accused him of sexually harassing and sexting him. Alexander apologized in a written statement and has kept a low profile since. His third term ends in November.
The ballot for the Aug. 23 primary won’t be set until the end of the qualifying period next week, leaving the door open for the District 8 race to grow even larger. Here are details on the two newest candidates:
James, 61, senior pastor of Life Church International and executive director of Reclaiming the Land, Inc., said the open House seat represents an opportunity that will “probably never happen (again) in a lifetime.”
James and his nonprofit have worked with incarcerated people and their families since he got out of prison more than a decade ago on federal drug charges. He was a major advocate in 2018 of Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to people, himself included, with prior felony convictions.
“That experience alone gave me a stronger understanding of what it means to fight for issues, what it means to advocate for justice and to ensure the playing fields are equal,” James said. “I tell people all the time prison was not a liability — it gave my life access. I don’t let people devalue me because of that. Because at the end of the day, I’m able to do what I do, and I’ve been able to see change because of that experience.”
James said that if elected, he would focus on issues including criminal justice reform, mental health and education and trade-school opportunities, and fight to help seniors, small businesses and people who need housing.
In 2008, James founded Reclaiming the Land, which he said has worked with thousands of people over the years, helping incarcerated people after their release from prison and mentoring children of parents who are in prison. In 2018, the organization was recognized by the Beatitude Foundation and #GiveTLH.
Lettman-Hicks, 53, CEO and board chair of the National Black Justice Coalition and owner of P&P Communications, said she decided to run because she sees Floridians’ rights shrinking rather than expanding under Gov. Ron DeSantis.
She criticized the governor over congressional maps that would dramatically alter two predominantly Black districts — including District 5, which stretches from Gadsden County to Jacksonville — and laws restricting what teachers can say about sexuality and racial history.
“There’s real issues of inflation, especially food and gas, affordable housing, gun violence, and all the Republicans want to do is remove books from the library and take on Mickey Mouse. And this is insanity. The governor is operating with unchecked power. I think it is unhealthy to sit on the sidelines and see Democracy in peril and not do everything in your power as a citizen to be a counter voice.”
She said if she were elected, she would focus on issues including voter integrity, education, public safety, public health, food insecurity, economic equality and affordable housing.
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Lettman-Hicks is a longtime adviser to former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, working with him on his City Commission campaigns and his 2018 bid for governor. She served on former President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans and is a member of the Leon County Schools’ LGBTQ+ School Support Guide Committee.
Contact Jeff Burlew at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: More file for Florida House seat left open by Rep. Ramon Alexander