Redistricting fallout: Will Corrine Brown run for Orlando seat?

Florida Times Union | 10/13/2015

It is no secret that U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown doesn't like the new east-west configuration for her District 5 congressional seat. But will she abandon it all together for a shot at a new Central Florida district that is being eyed as the new frontier for electing an African-American to Congress?

That is the rumor these days, although Brown's office isn't addressing it directly. When asked whether Brown was considering a run in District 10 instead of trying to hold on to her seat in North Florida, her spokesman David Simon passed along a statement that didn't really answer the question.

"I filed a lawsuit in federal court to ensure that minorities have access to proper representation and the ability to elect a candidate of their choice," Brown said.

That isn't a "yes," but it most definitely isn't a "no."

The new map, as recommended by a Leon County Circuit judge and pending with the Florida Supreme Court, would make it difficult for Republican Congressman Daniel Webster to hold on to his seat in the new District 10. Brown currently represents a tiny amount of the residents in the Orlando district, but she has campaigned in and around the area for the last 20 years and has built up a constituency base she is now fighting to keep.

Former Orlando police chief Val Demings and current state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, have already announced they will run in District 10 in 2016. (Some blogs have reported former state Sen. Gary Siplin might enter the race, too.)

Now, Brown's name is in the mix. Thompson said she was aware of the rumors but not sure how much credibility to give them.

“I had heard that had been discussed, but she has not made any public statement that I’m aware of that indicated that is her intention," Thompson told the Times-Union.

But that doesn't mean Thompson hasn't research the implications of a Brown candidacy in District 10. Thompson likes her odds; she points out that her entire Senate district is within the new congressional district's boundaries. And she said District 10 — known as a coalition district because black and Hispanic voters would have to vote similarly in order to elect a minority — is different than District 5, which even in its new east-west configuration is designed to be heavily African-American.

As Brown said in her statement above, she continues to argue that the new District 5 is unlikely to elect a black Democrat. Rep. Janet Adkins' seemed to lend credibility to those concerns when, during a private meeting of Republicans, she said inmates were packed into Brown's new district and can help flip it Republican. Brown has also voiced concerns about the Central Florida constituents she would leave behind if her district is redrawn, arguing they would lose their voice in Washington.

Even if Brown does decided to run for re-election in her North Florida district, which the new map has stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, she could also have Democratic primary opponent there. Former state Sen. Al Lawson, a prominent politician in the area, has said he is considering whether to run. Popular freshman Congresswoman Gwen Graham could also decide to run in District 5 instead of her current District 2, which in the new map is heavily Republican.

In a blog post on her official website written before the judge's latest redistricting ruling, Graham said she will wait for the process to reach a conclusion before deciding next steps.

"Unfortunately I don’t have an answer as to how this will end," she wrote. "With this rudderless, leaderless crew in Tallahassee — crippled by ugly partisanship — there’s really just no way to know. But I firmly believe there’s no sense in speculating about 'what-ifs.'"

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