One of the mysteries of the recent Republican primary in the Senate District 8 special election was the source of a mailing that appeared to rely on racist stereotypes. On September 23, 2009, Scott Carruthers, the executive director of the Florida Justice Association (formerly the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers) admitted that a group calling itself the Conservative Citizens for Justice was affiliated with the trial lawyers' organization, and that Conservative Citizens for Justice funded a controversial mailing by a group called Conservative Voters' Coalition.
Conservative Voters' Coalition was responsible for a mailer that went to 88,000 Jacksonville-area homes in August 2009. The mailer did not mention any specific candidate and included a reply card by which a voter could request an absentee ballot. It included images of Black Panthers, President Barack Obama, and Rev. Louis Farrakhan along with statements such as “Is this the change YOU want to believe in? Violence and intimidation at the voting booth,” and “armed thugs may try and scare you away from the voting booth.”
Trial bar groups were heavily involved in the special election, running a massive advertising campaign in opposition to the eventual winner, former state House Speaker John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine). The motivation for the mailer has not been made clear, but some observers speculate that the intent was to generate accusations of racism against one or more of the candidates in the Republican primary.
Mr. Carruthers noted that his organization was not involved in the development of the mailer, but conceded that the Conservative Citizens for Justice had paid Conservative Voters' Coalition $69,000 to develop and mail the document. He said, “Morally and politically, it was indefensible. We had a moral duty to stop it and we didn't.”