State rep. calls DeSantis’ map a ‘great compromise’; another calls it unconstitutional

TALLAHASSEE – It’s undeniably controversial, but a leader in state politics says it’s a good compromise.

I’m talking about the debate over congressional districts in Florida. And Jacksonville is at the heart of the battle over the congressional map, which will likely end up in court.

Lawmakers will return to Tallahassee on Tuesday — summoned for a special session that was triggered when Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the map that the House and Senate approved. Leaders from both chambers decided they wouldn’t try again on the map, but instead wait for the governor’s version, which they received Wednesday.

Proposed map

“I think it’s a great compromise,” said State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Florida. “If you look at the map, it incorporates components of a previously introduced map by the governor’s office as well as the legislature.”

Renner, a Jacksonville attorney, is in line to become Florida’s speaker of the House. He’s also the Rules Committee chairman in the House of Representatives.

Renner agrees with DeSantis’ map submission, specifically in replacing District 5, which runs across North Florida to Tallahassee.

“And the question is, can you have that crazy gerrymandered district and do so for purposes of creating a minority seat. And the courts are kind of moving in the direction, I think, of saying you can, but in very limited circumstances, and that’s the governor’s point,” Renner said.

Democratic Congressman Al Lawson, who currently holds the seat, says the governor is making a different point.

Lawson released a statement calling it:

“...a continued scheme by DeSantis to erase minority access districts in Congress in order to create more seats for the Republican Party. DeSantis is doing a disservice to Florida voters by playing partisan politics. This latest map clearly violates the Voting Rights Act as well as the US and Florida constitutions.”

Lawson’s view is echoed by Jacksonville’s Tracie Davis, a Democratic member of the Florida House. Her statement reads:

“Leadership is allowing the governor to draw the new Congressional maps. Last time I checked, I was elected to serve the people of Jacksonville, not Ron DeSantis. If he thinks we’re going to just accept his plan to disenfranchise Black voters in our community, he’s dead wrong.”

Renner says this will ultimately be decided by the judicial branch of government.

“It’s really for the courts to decide. State representatives and even the governor’s office can’t do that,” Renner said. “That’s what our judges do in the judiciary, and they’ll just tell us, you know, whether it’s constitutional or not.”

I spoke with Audrey Gibson on Thursday, a former Democratic leader in the Florida Senate. She says the change to the districts is a “done deal next week.”

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.