Late this afternoon, Judge Terry Lewis issued a harsh rejection of Congressional maps that were drawn by the Republican Legislature and declared that districts 5 and 10 were unconstitutional. Effectively, this will redraw the entire Central and North Central Florida congressional map from the Tampa Bay area to Orlando all the way up to Jacksonville and have far reaching political consequences. In the ruling, Lewis gave a harsh warning to political operatives in the process. He called the process a ‘mockery’ of the intent of the Fair District Amendment and said the district map “goes to the very foundation of our representative democracy. He firmly rejected the Republican argument that they did nothing wrong and firmly stated that they willingly worked to circumvent the law.
No one knows what exactly happens now. Although the Legislature is sure to appeal, there is a legal limbo for the moment. Before we go any further let’s give a round of applause for the persistence of the League of Woman Voters, who lead the charge leading up to the trial.
The judge begins the ruling with a quote from George Washington:
“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.. . . . without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischief of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
So where will the chips fall in Central Florida assuming lines are redrawn in an acceptable fashion for the 2016 election?
Let’s table the discussion of CD-5 and neighboring districts until tomorrow. Tonight we will look at CD-9 and CD-10.
Rep. Dan Webster’s CD-10 is an obscene partisan gerrymander that breaks up communities of interest just to add enough Republicans to elect Webster. Any slight alteration to the district is likely to make it a prime Democratic pick-up opportunity.
Val Demings disastrous campaign for Orange County Mayor proved what a flawed candidate she is. Despite her superstar status in 2012 when she ran a decent (but not great) campaign against Webster, her candidacy for Mayor ultimately polarized local Democrats and burned the Florida Democratic Party. Other Democrats are possibilities for this seat as Orange County has developed a strong bench of progressive office holders and activists. Given the haste with which Demings left the Mayor’s race and the strained relationship with local leaders that came from that campaign, chances are that another Democratic candidate will emerge.
The possibility of Democratic voters being moved from CD-9 to CD-10 means that Rep. Alan Grayson’s current seat which is heavily Democratic could turn more Hispanic. It could also become less Hispanic, we just do not know yet. State Senator Darren Soto has often been mentioned as a possibility for this seat. However, Soto’s voting record including a shocking final day of session vote for expansion of school “choice” means a Democratic Primary will be difficult for him. While the area is becoming more Hispanic, the Democratic nomination which is tantamount to election here are decided in activist dominated, lower turnout primaries. Love or hate Alan Grayson’s style, nobody is stronger with local activists than Congressman Grayson. Nobody has a stronger national following among Florida Democrats than Alan Grayson (that includes DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz). Nobody will generate more free media and find more foot soldiers than Alan Grayson.
Soto’s voting record has pleased many Tallahassee lobbyists but has caused consternation among some back home in Orange County. While he remains a strong potential candidate down the road for a Congressional seat, Soto will need to mend fences at home both among party activists and also among some Hispanic leadership. Failure to do so could open the door for another charismatic local Hispanic leader to emerge.
While some speculation tonight has focused on the possibility that Grayson will be weakened by this decision, barring legislative malpractice in the redistricting process once again, he should be just fine.