MIAMI — A Florida Democratic National Committee member who offended African-Americans for using the phrase “colored people” is expected to resign office Wednesday as the state party chairwoman and other officials called on him to resign — echoing the comments of his own wife, the Democratic Party chair in Duval County.
John Parker, the Duval County Democratic state committeeman, had told party officials he would post his resignation on his Facebook page.
Parker had said he meant to say “people of color” instead of “colored people” and eventually apologized for his offhanded remarks Jan. 22 after a local Democratic Party meeting in Jacksonville. But others accused him of using more racially charged language — claims he denied — and felt their complaints were being ignored in the ensuing months.
That led to increased media scrutiny and the remarkable call by Parker’s wife, Duval County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Lisa King, to say Monday that he should quit. After POLITICO published a story Wednesday on the controversy, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo broke months of silence and said he needed to go.
“Along with DEC Chair Lisa King, I also asked John Parker to resign. I believe him stepping down is the right thing to do,” Rizzo said in a statement to POLITICO.
Though some Democrats felt the new chair had done enough, insiders say she had held private conversations with surrogates to try to get Parker to leave his position. But he stayed on, troubling party officials who worried about the increasing racial tensions in Duval County, a key Florida battleground where the party is counting on strong black turnout in November if Gov. Rick Scott challenges Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and if Democrats are to win the governor’s mansion for the first time in 20 years.
On Wednesday morning, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Rep. Gwen Graham called Parker — who had endorsed her — and asked him to quit and then publicly called on him to resign.
"I am very concerned about this situation,” Graham said. “We need to bring Democrats together in 2018, not create distractions and divisions through our words and actions. I urge Mr. Parker to apologize fully and resign his positions as Duval County Democratic State Committeeman and on the Democratic National Committee."
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the only African-American gubernatorial candidate, joined with Graham in calling on Parker to quit as did one of Parker’s top African-American allies, state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville.
“While I do not believe John had any intent of malice in the manner in which he spoke, it is imperative that for the good of this city and the local and statewide party that he take this action,” Gibson said in a written statement Wednesday.
But another top Democratic official from the county, state Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D-Jacksonville), expressed more outrage and was the first elected official to call on him to quit. She also said Parker’s wife should step down as well because she showed “complicity” in not calling on him to resign until media pressure mounted.
But as he stalled, Democrats began breaking their silence.
Daniels also leveled other more serious charges about Parker’s alleged use of racial language, including “disgraceful comments about integration.”
“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,'" Daniels wrote in a press statement Monday night. “Unlike, other leaders in Florida, even after a request from the Florida Black Caucus, Mr. Parker has not resigned.”