Redistricting Round 2 Could Impact Corrine Brown, Dan Webster Big in 2016
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Circuit Judge Terry Lewis threw a major wrench into Florida politics this week when he ruled the state’s congressional districts were unconstitutional. While this might not be much of a problem this time out, two longtime Florida politicos have reasons to worry down the road if this ruling stands.
Lewis specifically cited the seats held by Corrine Brown and Dan Webster as violating the Fair Districts amendments passed by voters back in 2010. Brown is already fighting the ruling, planning on making an appeal. This case will undoubtedly drag on for a while, going all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. It’s doubtful that the decision will shuffle the deck in time for this year’s elections.
But 2016 is a different story and that should send shivers down both Brown’s and Webster’s spines. Even though they have been in Florida politics for decades, redistricting could impact them greatly.
Brown has been in Congress since 1992 and has always relied on a heavily gerrymandered district, holding the most reliably Democratic seat with the most African-American voters in North Florida. Over the years, she’s beaten back some impressive challengers like Alvin Brown and Jennifer Carroll, but for the most part Brown’s had easy pickings. That can change dramatically if more conservatives and Republicans are included in her district while more Democrats would be included in neighboring districts like those of Republicans Ander Crenshaw and Ted Yoho.
Back in 2010, Brown worked with Republicans in the Legislature against redistricting. She teamed up with Mario Diaz-Balart to argue that the Fair District amendments hurt minority voters. By taking the lead on the issue again, Brown is doing a favor for Republicans by pushing back. That could help her if the Legislature needs to draw up new congressional maps once again.
Webster could also be in some peril, especially as Central Florida grows more Democratic. While he has an easy task this time out, Democrat Val Demings, helped by Barack Obama’s and Bill Nelson’s coattails, came close to beating Webster in 2012. Democrats will be trying again in 2016, hoping their voters are more likely to come out for a presidential year. Webster could be hard-pressed to hold onto his seat, especially if Democrats go all out in Central Florida.
Since he’s been in Florida politics for so long, it’s easy to forget that Webster is only 65, but the area has changed dramatically over the years. No matter how many rooms in Tallahassee or highways have his name, a large chunk of his voters aren’t that familiar with him. Still, look for Webster to play less of a role than Brown in the latest round of the redistricting fight.
For the moment, Brown and Webster are safe. Neither has drawn a major opponent and they can expect to run out the clock until November. But, if the decision is upheld, both could be facing real challenges in an open presidential year.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News.