Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee on Wednesday said she was “disappointed” by the state Supreme Court’s decision in a redistricting case that could spell the end of her nascent congressional career.
But Graham, elected in 2014, said she hadn’t decided which direction her public service will next take.
The court approved a map that redraws U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown‘s current Jacksonville-to-Sanford district “in an east-west manner,” stretching it into what is now Graham’s territory in the Big Bend and Panhandle. That eviscerates her Democratic base in Gadsden and Leon counties.
“Dividing the 2nd Congressional District hurts North Florida and our community,” Graham said in a prepared statement.
But the new map of Florida’s 27 congressional districts could soon come under legal attack on other fronts. Brown said Wednesday the latest map flouts federal voting-rights law and pledged to fight it in federal court.
In August, she told reporters she would not join Brown in a federal lawsuit against the redrawing of the districts.
“Whatever the maps turn out to be, I will operate under those maps,” Graham said then. “I don’t think it is a congressperson’s place to be advocating one way or the other.”
On Wednesday, she said she “will make a decision about how to best serve the people of North Florida once the map has been completely settled.”
Graham’s name already has been mentioned for a Democratic run for governor in 2018.
“My focus remains on representing North Florida with an independent voice in Washington and providing the best constituent services here at home,” she said.
The League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and others had sued over the current congressional lines, redrawn after the 2010 census, saying the existing map violates a state constitutional prohibition against gerrymandering, the manipulation of political boundaries to favor a particular incumbent or party.
Voters in 2010 passed the “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments to prohibit such gerrymandering.
The case worked its way to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled that the current map was “tainted by unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbents.”
The Legislature tried but failed to agree on a redrawn congressional map in a Special Session this summer, and the matter bounced back to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis. He had been charged with taking evidence and figuring out a new map. He recommended the plaintiffs’ plan.