The first reason is her district helped them win Congressional seats in Northeast and Central Florida.
The district included most of Jacksonville’s black population and Democrats. Jacksonville’s other Congressional district was largely whitewashed of minority voters which made it a very safe Republican seat. It has remained so since 1992.
Moreover, Brown’s traditional district stretched through Daytona Beach, Gainesville and Orlando, which helped make a number of adjacent districts safely Republican. This gerrymandering and whitewashing was critical for Republicans who were looking to build sizable majorities in the state. Standing in their way were Democratic voters. Florida’s registered Democratic voters have outnumbered Republicans since at least the 1970s.
Notwithstanding the Democratic majority, Republicans have made up a majority of Florida’s Congressional delegation since 1992. Similar gerrymandering and whitewashing on the state level has helped Republicans build sizable majorities in the Florida House and Senate.
The second reason Republicans liked Brown was that conservative business and government leaders knew she fought like a wolverine to ensure Jacksonville had its slice of government projects. She was indispensable in funding the new Federal Courthouse in Jacksonville. It revitalized a historic section of downtown Jacksonville which had become dilapidated. The district now includes a new Circuit Courthouse and City Hall, which is in a restored downtown landmark.
Her methods were unorthodox and rough around the edges. But her political instincts were shrewd and her determination was the stuff of legend.
The third reason Republicans liked her was that she was unpopular outside of the base in her district. She was at many times the face of the Democratic Party in Jacksonville.
Her syntax, grammar and pronunciation were sometimes at war with each other. In addition, she seemed to pick up a new scandal every two to three years. The latest includes a federal indictment for defrauding a charitable organization. To swing voters, especially white swing voters and moderates, she was a reason to dislike the Democratic Party.
In 2012, a statewide referendum to limit gerrymandering passed.
As hard as the Republicans fought to ignore this addition to the Florida Constitution, they eventually had to sacrifice some Congressional seats to be in compliance with the new mandate.
The party decided it could jeopardize a seat or two in Central Florida if one or more could be added in North Florida.
Stretching the district of Congresswoman Brown to Tallahassee, would eliminate the Congressional seat held by Gwen Graham (daughter for former Florida Governor Bob Graham). There is almost no way a Democrat could win Graham’s old seat now. This created an additional Republican member of Congress from North Florida.
Also, by dispersing Brown’s district to include Tallahassee the Republicans could help pick someone from the state’s capital to defeat her. They found former State Senator Al Lawson, who was friendly to conservative business interests like big sugar, developers and insurance companies.
This movement was spearheaded by Jacksonville political operative Susie Wiles and coordinated with Republican lobbying firms and PACs in Tallahassee. Wiles has traditionally worked for Jacksonville and the interests of Northeast Florida.
But in the primary election, she was critical to shifting national political power away from Jacksonville and to Tallahassee. Wiles is a lobbyist for a Tallahassee firm so it may have been an effort to boost the firm’s clients. According to Wiles, Lawson has an existing relationship with the firm.
Many Jacksonville conservatives, and the reporters who laud them, celebrated the defeat of Corrine Brown the night of the primary election. Little was written or said about Jacksonville’s diminished clout in nation’s capital.
For the last 24 years Jacksonville residents have held two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. After the primary election, Jacksonville is down to one.
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