PerspectivesA.G. Gancarski Jacksonville Today Contributor
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, poses during a ceremonial swearing-in with Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., right, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019 in Washington, during the opening session of the 116th Congress. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

OPINION | Lawson for Lt. Gov?

Published on February 6, 2022 at 4:40 pm
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Will Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which connects Jacksonville’s Urban Core to Gadsden County while hugging the Georgia border, become a thing of the past soon?

That’s what Gov. Ron DeSantis wants. And he’s asking the Supreme Court to issue an advisory opinion on whether CD 5 can be blended out, replaced with a new district connecting Jacksonville’s Urban Core with Clay County and Nassau County. (We’ve discussed his map at some length here.)

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Those reading this have a few hours to submit briefs to the Florida Supreme Court regarding the potential redistricting. Their deadline is noon, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls has said that what the Supremes say will have a bearing on whether the House map remains looking like the status quo installed in 2016, or whether it will be the DeSantis map.

The cases against the DeSantis map are obvious, if you worry about issues like “retrogression” and minority access districts. District 5 Rep, Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson, has said that he will challenge it in court. Those with something of a long-term memory will recall predecessor Corrine Brown as similarly vigilant in defending a uniquely drawn, demographically driven district  — her version of CD5 was a long, narrow squiggle down to Central Florida.

Democrats, DeSantis has noted, are cleaning up in reapportionment elsewhere, with Illinois and New York creating maps that marginalize Republicans. So why not here, goes the implicit argument.

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CD 5 today may be a loser for Jacksonville’s larger interests, with a Congressman timeshared with his hometown. But if CD 5 goes the way of Corrine Brown’s former Jax-to-Orlando district, Lawson does have a fallback option.

Lieutenant governor.

As I write this, polling is starting to show that Charlie Crist, who has not made many mistakes in this campaign, is pulling away from his two main Democratic opponents. An internal poll from the Crist campaign has the former governor at 54%. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is at 28% and Annette Taddeo is stuck at 7%.

Is it possible for Fried to close the gap? Probably not. She’s in the news for all the wrong reasons. She has gone scorched earth against the governor, comparing him to Adolf Hitler and ramping up the rhetoric on issue after issue. But donors aren’t falling in behind Fried, and if they haven’t gotten there now, when are they going to?

Sen. Taddeo is suspended from fundraising through the legislative session, but continues to campaign. She was in Northeast Florida one recent Sunday, but she’s going to have a difficult time changing minds at this pace. 

Crist is a St. Petersburg guy, and he’s polling well everywhere in the state but North Florida, according to his survey. Crist is the choice of just 45% in the region, 11 points above Fried. 

Also by A.G. Gancarski: Ron DeSantis doesn’t owe you an explanation

My expectation is that Crist gets the nomination. And that if he’s smart, he will shore up his position with a running mate who knows North Florida. And who better than a man who has represented the region for decades? 

Lawson, should Congress fall through, would be uniquely positioned to make the case against Ron DeSantis. And he could help with turnout in a way other running mates might not. Recall how Andrew Gillum picked Chris King, who finished dead last in the primary, as his LG running mate. Recall how that worked out for Gillum and Democrats. Meanwhile, if the Congressional District 3 that DeSantis envisions comes to pass, a Jacksonville Democrat  — maybe even state Sen. Audrey Gibson, whose name we’ve also floated for mayor — could at least make a run for the new seat.

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A.G. Gancarski's columns were a staple in Folio Weekly for nearly two decades, and he has been the Northeast Florida correspondent for Florida Politics since 2014. He writes about the intersection of state and local politics and policy.

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