With a merciless August sun beating down on U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, she held a Tuesday press conference on the steps of the federal courthouse in Jacksonville to discuss the Special Legislative Session on Redistricting and to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit on Wednesday morning regarding plans to move CD 5 to an east/west configuration that even area Republicans object to.
“This [presser] was at the last minute,” Brown said, “but I thought it was absolutely necessary.”
Brown, who said that she’s the “only congressperson on call 24/7,” whether she’s at “church” or “the dollar store,” reminded reporters before the event of Josiah Walls, the Reconstruction-era black Republican who was elected “three times, and the third time they burned the courthouse down.”
“The plaintiff withdrew,” the Jacksonville Democrat said.
“I did not withdraw anything,” she added.
“There will be a lawsuit in the Northern District of Florida,” Brown continued. “I will be filing my own lawsuit tomorrow.”
Brown contended that federal courts trumped state prerogative, saying that “the Federal Court drew the district in 1992″ to “put communities of interest together.”
“The Third District was drawn by a federal court,” Brown added. “Why is it the target of the Florida Supreme Court?
Telling the story of Josiah Walls for a second time, Brown drew a parallel.
“As I stand here today,” said the 11-term congresswoman, “they are still trying to burn down the courthouse.”
The base map is flawed, she said, because its architects “knew [the new configuration] was a non-performing district,” because “in the history of Florida, Duval has never been with North Florida,” and because the prison population, counted for population purposes, cannot vote.
Returning to the “communities of interest” theme, Brown said that Jacksonville doesn’t “have anything in common with [rural] North Florida” and that Jacksonville African-Americans “have more in common with Downtown Orlando than Jacksonville Beach.”
“Commerce, ports, and tourism” link the Jacksonville and Orlando metros.
Saying that “my name is not Corrine ‘Gerrymandering’ Brown,” the congresswoman said that the new map was an attempt to “destroy” CD 5.
The lawsuit, said Brown’s attorney, would be to enjoin the implementation and enforcement of any plan that would conflict with her client’s interpretation of the Voting Rights Act.
We asked Brown if she had talked to the Duval legislative delegation, and she laughed ruefully before answering.
“I have not talked with the Duval delegation. Tomorrow may be another lawsuit,” Brown said, adding that it is “illegal” for her to talk to them about this plan.
Another problem she has with the process: the lack of public testimony.
“I want to be able to testify on the record,” Brown said. “This is serious; it will affect minorities all over Florida.”
Brown told a few stories about the history of structural racism in Florida, such as one about how “Jackie Robinson couldn’t live in Sanford” and “if he had stayed in Sanford, they would have killed him,” a reference to the town’s sundown laws.
Clearly, Brown is making the case that the redistricting turns back the clock, putting Florida back on the road to a time when minority populations lacked effective representation.