To hear some folks in Riviera Beach tell it, redistricting is already a joke.
Some residents of this largely African-American city in Palm Beach County say they feel "betrayed" by a Fair Districts amendment that promised minority communities better representation.
"Instead we're getting a carpetbagger," says retired medical technician Jonnie Brown, lifelong resident of Riviera Beach. "We got a rich white woman from Boca Raton who is trying to buy herself our seat in the Florida Senate."
Brown is talking about Emily Slosberg, a 34-year-old attorney and political consultant, daughter of Democratic state Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton. Political insiders long had predicted Emily eventually would run for her father's House seat, but she apparently has preferred to advance her timetable and move directly to the Senate.
Emily Slosberg is said to quietly be the favorite of Democratic Party leadership to fill the seat in new Senate District 25, though I was unable to confirm it over the holidays. Like Lauren Book, founder of Lauren's Kids, who is running for a state Senate seat in Broward County, Emily is CEO of a nonprofit foundation -- the Dori Slosberg Foundation that promotes driving safety. It is named for Emily Slosberg’s twin sister, who was killed with four other teens in a 1996 car crash.
Slosberg made her candidacy official Dec. 29, but before that used social media, particularly Facebook, to flesh out her chances in the district.
Trouble is, Emily Slosberg would be running against Bobby Powell, an urban and regional planner who assumed office in the Florida House of Representatives in November 2012 -- very much a part of the community he would be running in -- in fact, a native of Riviera Beach.
"Look, I am not a racist," explains Jonnie Brown, who now volunteers for a senior citizens organization in Riviera Beach. "But I would like my party to favor a candidate who knows our community firsthand, which she does not. Republicans were never going to win this city. We are predominantly people of African-American heritage who have been here for generations. We got our issues and our leaders know what they are.
"If the party wants to help us, they will seek out the best black voices in the city who know what troubles the neighborhoods most," Brown told Sunshine State News.
Harriette Mercer, Brown's cousin, said she agreed. "I am not a politics lady," she told SSN. "But I know we shouldn't be disrespected like somebody else knows us and will take care of us better than our own citizens can. Riviera Beach is no Boca Raton."
On Dec. 30, Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds recommended a map of Senate districts developed not by the Florida Senate, but by John O’Neill, who works with Strategic Telemetry, a Democratic-allied consulting firm.
The new map is seen as likely aiding Democrats gain at least two new seats, though the drawing of district lines that help a party or incumbents is strictly prohibited. Nevertheless, the next step -- the map's review by the Florida Supreme Court -- is likely a slam-dunk for the high court's approval.
It adds two new districts in Palm Beach County: District 34, where incumbent Democratic state Sens. Joseph Abruzzo of Wellington, and Maria Sachs of Delray Beach, probably will run against each other; and District 25, as I mentioned earlier, home of Rep. Bobby Powell. Powell told the Palm Beach Post Dec. 30 he is "all in" in that Senate Race. Slosberg, meanwhile, is apparently on her horse, galloping from District 34 to District 25. If she stayed at home, she would have to run against the two veterans, Abruzzo and Sachs.
When reached by phone, Powell declined to discuss his challenger Slosberg with SSN. "Yes, I'm in," he confirmed. "But I'd rather not speak for or about any other candidate in the race."
One interested party was more than ready to speak about Slosberg. Leslie Wimes, founder and president of the Democratic African-American Women's Caucus and also a Palm Beach County resident, had this to say in an email.
"Irv Slosberg deciding that his daughter Emily should hold dominion over the black folks of Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach doesn't surprise me," Wimes said. "Palm Beach County is one of the most racist places in Florida. The Slosbergs are going to learn that the black people in those areas aren't going to bow down to them or their money.
"Bobby Powell would be the best choice for the seat, and people know that," she said. "When the time comes, we'll show them better than we can tell them. The voters know who has been there and who is the carpetbagger. Ask Emily, has she rallied with the people on behalf of Corey Jones? -- and then get back to me."
(Corey Jones was a black church drummer, shot in October near his broken-down vehicle on I-95 by Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Nouman Raja. After an investigation, Raja was fired.)
As of July 2015, Palm Beach County had registered 361,955 Democratic voters, 233,908 Republican voters and 246,453 people who identified themselves as independents or members of a third party.
Since 1992, incidentally, Palm Beach County has supported a Democrat for the presidency. But before 1992, the county had been carried by a Republican every four years since 1948.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith