Update, John Parker just resigned. His wife, who bizarrely had called for it, announced it. pic.twitter.com/cID12ueCCx— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) April 4, 2018
“I misspoke and used language that was hurtful. I apologized and pledged that I would learn from my mistake. I understand my error perpetuates divisiveness and does not allow us an opportunity for the important types of meaningful discourse - a conversation our party must engage in sooner rather than later - that help us grow as individuals and a party protecting the dignity of all people,” John Parker wrote in a letter to local, state, and national Democratic party officials, which indicated he was stepping down as the committeeman from Duval County and from the Florida DNC.
“I take responsibility for my mistake and as such is the impetus of my decision,” he continued. “I resign for the good of my Party and all those who are fighting so hard for a better world than the one we are in now.”
Parker said he meant to say “people of color” after calls for him to resign first arose. But those calling for him to step down said the issue wasn’t merely an isolated mistake. Diallo-Sekou Seabrooks, who attended the party, claimed Parker said “colored people” more than once while speaking that night. Seabrooks also said Parker indicated concern that the city would shift to a majority-black government.
Parker denied allegations that he had made other racially-insensitive comments.
??— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) April 4, 2018
Florida Dem Party Chair Terrie Rizzo, who quietly worked behind the scenes to get DNC official to quit over “colored people” controversy, finally goes public and says John Parker needs to gohttps://t.co/c2ztSJJfNL pic.twitter.com/rCZ0mu4VCS
Strangely enough, Parker’s wife, the executive committee chairman of Duval County, called for his resignation months after the uproar began, as did other Democratic officials, including his African-American allies.
State Rep. Kimberly Daniels cited Parker’s alleged prior use of inflammatory language when calling him to resign.
“Preceding this instance, he allegedly referred to the Working People Caucus as the ‘Poor Black People Working Caucus' and called a constituent the 'mayor’s mammy,'" she wrote. “Unlike, other leaders in Florida, even after a request from the Florida Black Caucus, Mr. Parker has not resigned.”
The turmoil in Duval County has significant implications for both national and state races, according to Politico. Democrats are hoping to win the gubernatorial race for the first time in 20 years and would need a strong African-American voting presence to do so. The appearance of racial insensitivity and entrenched leaders who are indifferent to the views of African-American constituents will not motivate a powerful black voter turnout.
Democrats are also concerned that Gov. Rick Scott may challenge the incumbent Democratic senator. A strong black turnout would also help Democrats keep that senatorial seat.
The slow response to Parker’s comments seems to indicate the Democratic establishment’s fragile relationship with black voters. Black voter turnout declined significantly in the 2016 election. Yet the 2008 and 2012 elections and recent state races have shown the centrality of Democratic candidates actually listening to black constituents.
If the establishment appears detached from popular opinion — indeed, if officials treat their constituents like statistics rather than people whose voices should be heard — Democratic candidates will have a much more difficult time encouraging the voter turnout needed to ensure they keep or win key positions.