JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s a move by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that could change the face of North Florida politics and who represents you in Congress.
New congressional boundaries are being drawn up by state lawmakers, and DeSantis has his own map proposal as well.
Jacksonville is a key focus in the state’s redistricting plan. Currently, it’s split up across two congressional districts.
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat, represents the area of the Urban Core that’s part of District 5 — a district that stretches all the way west to Tallahassee — while U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, a Republican, takes in the rest of Jacksonville and surrounding areas in District 4.
Under DeSantis’ plan, the southeastern part of Duval County would be one district, with part of St. Johns County. The rest of Duval would be joined with Nassau and Clay counties for another district. Both districts would be compact.
The governor is asking the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in and issue an opinion now — before lawmakers pass their final maps — as to whether or not he can reject their maps down the road.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has offered support to DeSantis’ request. In a brief filed with the court, Curry says:
“Given that the constitutionality of District 5 is uncertain ... an advisory opinion from this Court would reduce the possibility Jacksonville citizens will participate in an election that may face protracted legal challenges...”
Political observers, like University of North Florida Professor Michael Binder, have said Curry could stand to benefit from the DeSantis map, if he should decide to run for Congress at some point after his term as mayor.
Local Democratic Party Chairman Danial Henry said the move by the governor is an overstep of his power.
“You can create a compact district in Jacksonville alone that would elect a minority to Congress, so that’s why this argument that the governor has made that even the mayor has put himself into falls on its face,” Henry said.
Attorney Hank Coxe is representing the statewide groups Common Cause and Fair District Florida. Both groups are opposed to the governor’s request for an opinion. In a brief filed with the state Supreme Court, he writes:
“The Interested Persons respectfully submit that the Governor’s February 1, 2022 advisory opinion Request is not within the purview of article IV, section 1(c) of the Florida Constitution, and that this Court should not provide an opinion in response to the Request.”
It’s unclear when the court could rule on this.
News4JAX also requested comment from Dean Black, the head of the Republican Party of Duval County. Black said he was not ready to comment on the issue.
A request for comment from Mayor Lenny Curry was not returned by publication of this article.