House Democrats Have Mixed Reaction to Florida Redistricting Ruling

Abby Livingston | Roll Call | 07/11/2014

Democrats on Capitol Hill expressed mixed reactions Friday to a new court ruling that declared Florida’s congressional map unconstitutional.

A judge ruled Thursday that the Sunshine State’s 5th and 10th Districts, held by Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown and Republican Rep. Daniel Webster were unconstitutional — effectively tossing out the entire map drawn by Republicans in 2012.

It’s still unclear if this means the map will have be redrawn before November. The Miami Herald reported Thursday night that a new map will not be used until 2016. But

Democrats remain hopeful changes could come earlier and are making preparations for the 2014 elections to be waged over new lines in the Sunshine State.

Democrats specifically focused on Webster’s district, which is west of Orlando, in the hours after the Thursday evening decision.

A Democratic strategist with knowledge of the matter said operatives are in communication with former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings as a possible recruit against Webster for this fall. Demings was the Democratic nominee against Webster in 2012, and he defeated her by a 3.5 percent margin.

But Demings proved such a prized recruit that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel called her on election night 2012 to pitch another go-round. She ultimately opted against a rematch this cycle. Florida’s 10th District is currently rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Many Democrats believe a new map means the candidate filing window could open again. This would be significant because Democrats failed to find a viable recruit to challenge Republican Rep. David Jolly for the competitive 13th District based in St. Petersburg. Normally, that seat would be competitive, but that race, too, is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call because of the recruitment woes.

Also, not every Democrat is cheering the ruling.

“I’m disappointed with the ruling,” Brown said, elaborating on a lengthy statement she released Thursday night on the matter. “Yeah, of course.”

“Let me just tell you, I don’t care who’s happy,” she said, visibly agitated, at the final House votes of the week. “The point of the matter is that we celebrated in this Capitol last week the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It is the law of the land.”

“And we will go all the way to the United States Supreme Court, dealing with making sure that African Americans are not disenfranchised.”

“We’re not going back,” she added. “We’re not going to be disenfranchised.”

“Period,” she said, raising her voice for emphasis. She added that this is a threat “to every African American elected official in every capacity.”

Her colleague from a neighboring district, Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, said he was pleased with the ruling.

“The judge recognized that the Republicans in Tallahassee had violated the constitution for the benefit of Daniel Webster, a career politician who spent 28 years in the

Florida Legislature,” Grayson said. “And the judge understood that when 62 percent of Floridians voted to make it part of our highest law against gerrymandering, then that should be respected.”

“From my reading of the district court’s decision, we will end up with downtown Orlando,” Grayson added. “I’ll end up with Orlando and very likely the African American precincts west of Orlando. And I welcome our new constituents.”

Republicans picked up some good news on Friday. Former Rep. David Rivera, a Republican, announced he is suspending his campaign in Florida’s 26th District:

Rivera’s campaign was generally an unwelcome development in Republican politics. The party had consolidated behind Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo as a challenge to Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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