For nearly three decades, the city of Jacksonville has been split between two congressional districts.
One of them, what is now the 4th Congressional District, was represented for years by reliable and, by today’s standard, moderate Republicans: Tillie Fowler and Ander Crenshaw.
The other district, currently the 5th Congressional District, was Democrat Corrine Brown‘s sinecure. The maps on that district changed periodically, seemingly always under legal challenge, a process that ended in 2016 with Brown’s district being moved from its south/southwest jog toward the Orlando area to a straight east-west configuration.
Brown’s political career, wrecked by indictment and conviction for rainmaking and profiteering for and off a fake charity, ended soon after the ink on the new map dried.
Jacksonville, as of yet, doesn’t have the population to house two districts within Duval County — and given the cartographical challenges of minority access districts, that may not be the case after the next apportionment either.
However, a look at book closing data for CD 4 and CD 5 reveals two districts that ultimately will be decided in primary elections, proving that some things really don’t change in the 904.
CD 4 is still heavily Republican, though the trend in the last two years has been an uptick in NPA voters.
In 2016, there were 547,011 voters; that number is up to 564,794 in 2018.
Republicans are up 6,000 votes, just over 281,000, or 49.8 percent of the district’s voters. There are now 150,237 Democratic voters, an uptick of 4,500, or 26.6 percent of district voters. NPAs, however, moved from 107,797 in 2016 to 128,057 this year.
That gain of more than 20,000 voters represents 3.6 percent of the electorate, and it’s telling that NPA growth is outpacing even the growth of the voter rolls in the district.
Much of the change came from a decrease in registrants to the “Independent Party” and the Independence Party. In 2016, those two parties accounted for nearly 14,500 votes; in 2018, the Independence Party was gone, and the Independent Party had just 2,260 registrants.
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats had a competitive primary this year. Incumbent U.S. Rep. John Rutherford is the prohibitive favorite against electoral politics newcomer Ges Selmont, the Democratic nominee.
CD 5, meanwhile, is a different story. The district winds through eight counties along Interstate 10, and was designed to be won by a Democrat. The last two years, meanwhile, have made it marginally less friendly for a Dem.
The district now has 442,303 voters, up nearly 2,000 from 2016. Republican registrations have stayed mostly flat in the district: 103,170, just 47 more than in 2016, making up 23.3 percent of voters.
The real changes have been a decrease in Democrats over the last two years, and an expansion of NPA voters.
In 2016, 259,116 Democrats called CD 5 home; that number is down to 255,673 in 2018, but is still a strong 58 percent majority. Conversely, 69,208 was the total number of NPA voters in 2016. In 2018, that number is 80,885.
Likewise, in CD 5 it was a bad cycle for the Independence and Independent parties, which lost all but 1,052 of their more 6,600 registrants in two years, speaking to a lack of intentionality in those registrations.
The ongoing drama since Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson took the seat from Corrine Brown has been whether or not Duval Democrats could take back the seat in the primary.
With 141,305 of the district’s 255,673 Democrats, that could have been the case if voters moved in geographic lockstep. However, despite a well-known Jacksonville challenger in former Mayor Alvin Brown, polling suggests that won’t happen, with Lawson leading Alvin Brown 50 percent to 28 percent.
The winner of Brown/Lawson gets Republican Virginia Fuller in the general election.
Fuller noted that both Democrats are getting Republican money. To reassure attendees of her independence, Fuller said she wasn’t getting any money at all.