The Florida Democratic Party brought their statewide tour to Century Wednesday afternoon as they look to gain support in Escambia County, a traditional Republican stronghold.
Only one Century resident — other than local candidates or the mayor — attended the meeting.
The tour is part of the party’s effort to ensure they are reaching voters across the state and bring attention to their candidates in rural areas that have not seen a Democratic candidate in decades.
“We are here to talk about the issues that are important to the rural areas of Florida. We know that rural counties have been particularly hard hit by the last 20 years of Republican rule,” Terrie Rizzo, state chair of the Florida Democratic Party told NorthEscambia.com. “We have a record number of Democratic candidates that have stepped up to run and present issues to the local areas.”
Rizzo said the visit to Century is part of the party’s 67-county plan, because “every county in Florida matters”.
“We deal with a lot of poverty, and we deal with a lot of infrastructure needs that go overlooked, as well as transportation to get to things such as education, transportation to health care and transportation to jobs, Vikki Garrett, Democratic candidate for Florida House District 1, said.
“I have a real concern about our public education from the state level as far as the resources we can bring back to District 1,” Garrett said.
“We will build up Escambia,” Democratic Florida Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring said. “Probably starting from Pensacola, especially with all the defense work. And the communities start to build opportunities moving north.”
Ring is a former state senator from Broward County and was one of the first people to work at Yahoo during the company’s early years. If elected, he would be first Democrat to win a statewide race for a Florida office since 2006 when Alex Sink won the CFO job.
The Democratic Party’s “Rural Tour” stop in Century was billed as a “Rural Education Forum”, a topic Century Mayor Henry Hawkins said he holds dear.
Carver/Century K-8 School, the last public school inside Century, closed in May 2009 as the students were consolidated into Bratt Elementary School and Ernest Ward Middle.
“In the past 10 or 12 years with two superintendents, they have closed every predominately black school there is in Escambia County,” Hawkins said. “Century was the last one.”
Hawkins said the county spent millions more building a new facility at Ernest Ward Middle School in Walnut Hill, instead of spending millions less to move students to the former Carver Middle School in Century.
The one local resident that attended the event, Tawana Jones, told the panel that there is more to Century that most people see.
“I don’t want you guys to think we are all just needy and poor, because that is a misrepresentation of us,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of us that work, that have great jobs, that are productive members of society. So we are not all poor, we are not all begging…..there are people that are doing well in Century. I want that to be portrayed about my community.”
“Century has a lack of resources for its citizens, and school is that resource. That is the main resource,” Jones added. She said “the majority” of the children in Century do not attend Bratt or Byrneville elementary, Ernest Ward Middle or Northview High schools because they are too far away. In the school attendance zone that includes Century, Ernest Ward is the greatest distance away at about 16 miles.
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