TALLAHASSEE — In a major ripple from the state’s new redistricting plan, Republican Congressman Daniel Webster said Monday he will run for an open seat that stretches from Lake County to the Gulf Coast.
Webster, who made an unsuccessful bid for U.S. House speaker last year, has represented parts of the Orlando area for decades in the Legislature and Congress. But his current district was overhauled in a redistricting plan approved in December by the Florida Supreme Court, with the new boundaries widely expected to lead to the election of a Democrat.
In the announcement Monday, Webster said he will run in Congressional District 11, which includes all or parts of Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties. Republican Congressman Rich Nugent, who represents a large part of the area, announced in November that he would not seek another term in 2016.
Webster’s announcement said he owns a home in Lake County and that he has represented parts of the new district while in Congress.
“I’m running for another term in Congress because there is still much to be done to reform the process and fix what is broken in Washington,” Webster said in a prepared statement. “For the past five years, I have fought to change the power based, staff-driven congressional process into one based upon principles. Last year, I ran for speaker against (former Speaker) John Boehner and the powerful Washington establishment because I believe that our country deserves a legislative process that works.”
Webster faces a Republican primary contest against Justin Grabelle, a former chief of staff to Nugent. Grabelle had raised $111,664 as of Dec. 31 for the race and had nearly $100,000 in cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission website.
With Nugent stepping down, widespread speculation had focused on whether Webster would run for the District 11 seat. He is a prominent figure in Republican politics, serving as state House speaker from 1996 to 1998 before getting elected to the state Senate and then to Congress.
Webster’s current district was closely watched in a legal fight that led to redrawing the state’s congressional map. Voting-rights groups forced the revised map through a lawsuit alleging the Legislature violated the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts standards with the design of current districts.
Though the Florida Supreme Court signed off on the new districts in December, Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown has continued to challenge the redrawn map in federal court. Brown, whose district would be dramatically changed to run from Jacksonville to Gadsden County, contends the new plan violates the federal Voting Rights Act.