Some say that Ron DeSantis is America’s most racist governor since George Wallace. Others say he’s even more racist than George Wallace; hard to agree one way or that other. But one thing that is easy to agree on, is that DeSantis is Florida’s most racist governor since the state’s first post-Reconstrution Republican governor, Claude Kirk (1967-’71).
After the 2020 census, Florida gained a House seat and the congressional map had to be redrawn. The process is completely controlled by Republicans in the state legislature. The legislature was successfully sued after its racist congressional map in 2012 and by 2016, Florida had a relatively balanced congressional map that produced a delegation with 14 Republicans and 13 Democrats, fairly reflective of the statewide votes. DeSantis had every intention of changing that by ridding the state of districts that would reflect Black interests. When the legislature actually tried to follow the state’s fair districts provisions, DeSantis inserted himself into the process, vetoing the legsialure’s maps and drafting his own racist map. The League of Women Voters and other groups sued.
Notice that dark blue strip along the northern border in the map on the left? That’s the pre-gerrymandering map and that strip was FL-05 connecting Tallahassee and Gadsden County to the Africa-American neighborhoods of Jacksonville. The district has a partisan lean of D+21 and elected a very conservative Black Democrat, Al Lawson. He voted more frequently with the GOP than almost any other Democrat in Congress, but that didn’t protect him when Ron DeSantis put his head on the chopping block and eliminated the district entirely, as you can see with the map on the right. The people who lived there have been absorbed into 4 deep red districts where their votes don’t matter at all:
FL-05 (John Rutherford)- R+23
FL-04 (Aaron Bean)- R+15
FL-03 (Kat Cammack)- R+18
FL-02- (Neal Dunn)- R+16
There are several lawsuits and one looks like it might get settled with an agreement to bring back Lawson’s seat. That won’t settle the federal lawsuit, which includes gerrymandering up and down the state and which resulted in the GOP stealing 3 other seats (so four in total). This one is the one the League of Women voters paired up with Eric Holden’s organization— the National Redistricting Foundation— plus Black Voters Matter, Equal Ground and Florida Rising— and was about to go to trial. The agreement gives them Lawson’s district back in return for them not suing in the rest of the state.
Gary Fineout reported that as a result, the trial this month “will no longer include issues such as whether some districts were redrawn to benefit Republicans, a violation of Florida’s anti-gerrymandering standards adopted by voters. Instead the big remaining legal question in the litigation is whether Florida’s redistricting standards enacted by voters violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause as argued by DeSantis. Florida’s Fair Districts provision states that congressional districts cannot be drawn in a way that would “diminish” minority voters ability to elect someone of their choice. The map pushed by DeSantis, however, blew apart a district that linked Black neighborhoods and towns stretching from just west of Tallahassee to Jacksonville. The governor justified his map by asserting that Lawson’s old district was an unconstitutional race-based gerrymandering— an argument that could be undercut by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on redistricting in other states. In the agreement filed Friday evening, lawyers for DeSantis and Legislature have now agreed that ‘none of the enacted districts in North Florida are districts in which Black voters have the ability to elect their preferred candidates.’”
Unfortunately reactionary Al Lawson (age 75) wants to run again— not even close to any kind of win for progressives. I’m hoping Jacksonville progressives get behind a strong primary opponent-- state Rep. Angie Nixon would be ideal-- and retire Lawson permanently. It's because of conservatives careerists like Lawson (left) and Charlie Crist (right) that there is barely a breathing Florida Democratic Party left any longer. There is a real Republican Party in Florida; no one needs a pale imitation of one as an alternative.
FloridaPolitics.com noted that “While the agreement eliminates other challenges to similarly questionable districts downstate, plaintiffs exult nonetheless. ‘Today’s announcement affirms what we knew to be true since the redistricting process concluded— the Governor forced the Legislature to adopt a new Congressional Map that diminished minority representation,’ said Equal Ground founder Jasmine Burney-Clark. ‘Despite having taken Florida voters down a similar path over 10 years ago when the Florida Supreme Court chastised Florida legislators for making a mockery of the redistricting process, today’s stipulation proves they did not learn their lesson. Had it not been for Florida’s redistricting coalition bringing suit to challenge the unconstitutional map that was approved last year, Florida voters would be forced to accept a gerrymandered map that conflicts with our state law as outlined in the Fair District Amendments,’ Clark added.”