Gov. Ron DeSantis’ congressional redistricting map wiped out the former lines of Florida’s 5th Congressional District, leaving national Republicans positioned to spike the ball.
That’s one read of the decision of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to add what is now Florida’s 4th Congressional District and its sort-of incumbent to its “target list” of 75 flippable seats in the 2022 cycle.
“No Democrat is safe in this environment,” said NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer.
That would have been especially true for U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, whose name was listed in the NRCC release, if Lawson did not announce Thursday he was running against Rep. Neal Dunn in CD 2.
Lawson’s former district — that once extended from central Duval County to Gadsden County, encompassing the Interstate 10 corridor along the way — was wiped out by a “race-neutral” map proposed by the Governor’s Office and approved by the Legislature in a redistricting Special Session this Spring.
The 73-year-old third-term Democrat will not run in that new CD 4, which includes Northern and Western Duval County along with Clay and Nassau County. That seat will have more local representation now.
A number of Republicans appear poised to run serious campaigns. The most recent entry to the race: Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean filed his statement of candidacy last week with the Federal Election Commission. The President Pro Tempore of the Florida Senate, Bean will get likely the most significant endorsements.
Political outsider Erick Aguilar and state Rep. Jason Fischer were already in the field. Fischer is already on television in Jacksonville, with a spot touting his loyalty to Gov. DeSantis and former President Donald Trump. Aguilar maintains a combative Twitter presence, meanwhile.
Nassau, Clay and Duval County areas north and west of the St. Johns River are included in the new district. Donald Trump carried the district by 7 points in 2020, and Gov. DeSantis by 5 points in 2018.
This will not be a majority-Jacksonville district. The Republican Primary will privilege the suburbs over the city: Growing Clay County will make up 44% of GOP Primary voters. Duval will account for 35%, and Nassau 21%.
Though this new district sees a Republican advantage, Democrats will compete.
Former state Sen. Tony Hill and previous congressional candidate LaShonda Holloway are both actively campaigning. Hill is a current aide to Lawson, while Holloway ran against Lawson multiple times in recent years.
The NRCC lists three other Florida target seats, which likewise saw some map changes: CD 7, represented by outgoing Rep. Stephanie Murphy; CD 13, represented under the old map by outgoing Rep. Charlie Crist, and CD 15.