Rep. Corrine Brown (D)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: Nov. 11, 1946, Jacksonville .
Education: FL A&M, B.S. 1969, M.S., 1971.
Family: Single; 1 child.
Elected office: FL House of Reps., 1982–92.
Professional Career: Prof., FL Commun. Col., 1977–82, Guidance counselor, 1982–92.
The congresswoman from the 3rd District is Corrine Brown, a Democrat first elected in 1992. She grew up in Jacksonville, taught at the community college, was a guidance counselor and in 1982, was elected to the Florida House. With her Jacksonville base, she was the clear favorite in this new district. In the Democratic primary, she faced white talk-radio host Andy Johnson, who called himself “the blackest candidate in the race.” Brown led 43%-31% in the primary and won 64%-36% in the runoff. She won the general election 59%-41%.
|Corrine Brown (D)||Unopposed||($562,421)|
|Corrine Brown (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (100%), 2002 (59%), 2000 (58%), 1998 (55%), 1996 (61%), 1994 (58%), 1992 (59%)
Brown has compiled a liberal record on most issues. In her district, many voters work at military bases and she tends to support high defense spending and argues that the military can be a source of opportunity. She hailed the Navy’s January 2009 decision to create a home port for a nuclear carrier at Jacksonville’s Mayport naval station as a local economic boost and “a decision that will make our country safer.” On the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, she sought additional veteran’s cemeteries for Florida, which is the home to more veterans than any other state except California. New cemeteries were approved for Jacksonville and Sarasota in 2003. On the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, Brown worked on legislation to strengthen security at the ports. A project of hers in the 111th Congress (2009-10) is a high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando and Miami.
Her outspoken, partisan views cause her problems from time to time. In 2004, she criticized Bush administration representatives at a briefing on the Haiti crisis, saying that they were “a bunch of white men” who “all look alike to me.” After Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, called her on her remarks, Brown apologized, but she continued to call the White House policy on Haiti racist. Also in 2004, under parliamentary pressure from fellow members, she rescinded her comment to the House that Republicans “stole the election” in 2000. In a dispute in 2008 over the seating of convention delegates from Florida, Brown, who had endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, said, “If we are not seated, then nobody is going to be seated.” The problem was resolved after Barack Obama became the certain nominee.
Brown has had spirited campaign opposition, resulting largely from personal issues. Her most difficult contest came in 1998 amid charges of questionable ethical conduct. In June of that year, the St. Petersburg Times reported that her daughter had been given a $50,000 Lexus car by agents of African millionaire Foutanga Sissoko. He had been imprisoned in Miami on federal charges of paying an illegal gratuity to a Customs Service officer, and Brown worked furiously to get him released, lobbying Attorney General Janet Reno to have him deported to Africa to continue his humanitarian work. The newspaper also reported that she kept a jazz singer on her payroll as a “congressional outreach specialist” and that the singer occasionally visited the district from her New York City home. Brown reacted with fury, filing a criminal contempt charge against the Times reporters with the Capitol Police, claiming they “accosted” her and their questions made her cry. The charges went nowhere.
The Republicans found a credible challenger in Bill Randall, an African-American like Brown and a former General Motors manager who had become a minister. He opposed abortion rights and favored local control of schools and government vouchers for private school tuition. He held Brown to 55%, getting 45% of the vote.
A subsequent investigation by the House Committee on Standards of Official conduct found that Brown “demonstrated, at the least, poor judgment and created substantial concerns regarding both the appearance of impropriety and the reputation of the House.” But it dropped the case because, the committee said, it was unable to question key witnesses, including Sissoko. But the story continued to have political repercussions for Brown. She faced a vigorous re-election challenge in 2000 from Republican Jennifer Carroll, a retired 20-year Navy officer who criticized Brown for a lack of vision and an inability to work with people. She also outspent her. Brown called Carroll “a zero” and “a Republican puppet.” With help from an October campaign rally with President Clinton and a strong grass-roots organization, Brown won 58%-42%. In 2002, Carroll again challenged Brown. But local Republicans were not enthusiastic about her candidacy in this heavily Democratic district. Brown won 59%-41%, again with huge leads in Jacksonville and Orlando. She has been unopposed since then. Barring unexpected problems, she appears secure until the next redistricting.