FAMU alumna Corrine Brown has represented the district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1992. The district currently runs north-south from Jacksonville to Orlando. But a July 9 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court ordered the district to be redrawn “in an east-west manner.” That could set a pathway for another graduate of FAMU, Alfred “Al” Lawson, to challenge her for the seat.
“Since the Legislature cannot prove that the north-south configuration is necessary to avoid diminishing the ability of black voters to elect a candidate of their choice, we hold that District 5 must be redrawn in an east-west manner,” the majority opinion stated. “Despite the Legislature’s repeated contentions that a north-south orientation of the district is the only option and is essential to avoid diminishing the ability of black voters to elect a candidate of their choice, there is simply insufficient evidence to support that assertion.”
A plan under consideration by the Florida Legislature would create a new east-west district from Duval to Gadsden County. Brown thinks that the changes would prevent an African American from winning the seat in 2016
“District 5 [the proposed district]: They knew when they drew it that it would not elect an African-American nor would it elect a Democrat,” she said in a quote published by the Florida Times-Union. “I have no idea why they drew that district.”
Lawson appears to disagree with Brown. The proposed new District 5 runs across eight counties. Lawson represented all or part of four of those counties (Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson, and Madison) in the Florida Senate from 2000 to 2010. He told WFSU that he might run for the seat next year.
“I think sometimes it’s an opportunity for change and different leadership. When you represent this area up in North Florida, you know, it’s slightly different from representing Central Florida and a portion of Duval,” he told WFSU.
The Florida Supreme Court still intends for District 5 to be a minority-access seat. According to the Orlando Sentinel: “In the redrawn district, African-Americans made up 42 percent of the voters in the 2014 general election and 46 percent in 2012, according to Politico. In the Democratic primaries in those two cycles, 63 percent of voters were black. President Obama won the district by 28 points in 2012. This would not be a district hostile to black and/or Democratic candidates.”
Lawson hinted that he could appeal to a wide variety of voters.
“I’ve never had a district that was more than 26 or 28 percent African American. So I’m not concerned about a minority-access seat. I never had one,” he said in a quote published in Politico Florida.
Politico Florida reports that white voters would make up “about 38 percent of the district.”
If Lawson runs, it would be his third campaign for Congress. He came up short in a primary bid against Democratic Incumbent Allen Boyd for the District 2 seat in 2010. Lawson won the Democratic nomination for the seat in 2012, but lost in the general election to Republican Steve Southerland.
Lawson and Brown are both Democrats and would face-off in the August 30, 2016 primary if they both decided to run.