For the first time in decades, all Gainesville residents will soon have the same U.S. representative and Florida state senator.
Florida will toss the “pie-slice” system after the Nov. 8 general election. Alachua county elections chief deputy Will Boyett said the Florida Supreme Court ruled the boundaries of U.S. House districts and Florida state senate districts didn’t meet the standards (PDF) of the “Fair Districts Amendment.”
“We’ve (had) a pie-slice setup for more than 20 years,” Boyett said of the current districts in the area. “About three quarters of the county is in one congressional district, the remaining quarter-county has been another district.”
Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which stretches from Orlando through east Gainesville and up to Jacksonville, will no longer touch Alachua County, Boyett said. A new district, the 3rd District, includes all of Alachua County as well as Union, Bradford, Clay, Putnam and north Marion county.
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who was indicted April on fraud charges, will no longer represent east Gainesville. And for the first time in more than 20 years, east Gainesville will be represented by a white rather than black representative.
Pam Carpenter, the Alachua County supervisor of elections, said the law requires her office to notify voters any time there’s a district change, so they’ve sent them new voter information cards so they know what district they’re in.
The Nov. 8 general election in the new district will decide between Republican Rep. Ted Yoho, who currently represents most of Alachua County, Democrat Ken McGurn and independent Tom Wells.
While none of the candidates have yet offered a plan to reach out to voters in Brown’s district, the candidates for the new 3rd District believe their messages will do the job.
Yoho said even with the new district and constituency, issues will “pretty much stay the same.”
“Jobs and the economy, getting our debt under control and national security are the big things that come up over and over again,” Yoho said, “whether that’s the old District 3 or the new District 3.”
Yoho said there’s been progress, citing Paul Ryan’s speakership and the resignation of former Speaker John Boehner, since he entered office and mentioned the lack of leadership he sees in Washington as the reason he’s seeking a third term after being elected in 2012.
Democrat Ken McGurn said nothing has changed since Yoho entered office.
“He went up there and divided this country, he even divided his own party,” said the Gainesville businessman.
“When it became clear that no one else was going to step forward to challenge Yoho,” McGurn said, “I decided I had to do it.”
McGurn specified the need for more jobs as his biggest issue, saying he’s personally been responsible for creating hundreds of jobs working with multiple Gainesville organizations.
Tom Wells will also be on the ticket with no party affiliation. Wells, who holds a doctorate in theoretical physics, said he was tired of the political system and likened his campaign to the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Wells said he considers himself a progressive.
“I don’t disagree with anything on (Sanders’) platform,” Wells said. “In some instances I think you could express it more clearly and more subtly and some things should go further in fact.”
Wells cited political corruptness as the chief issue of his campaign, saying the country’s problems become more simple once you “get rid of a bought congress.”
With only three candidates running for the seat, there won’t be any primaries before the general election. But Boyett said candidates may change their strategies to reach their new constituency.
Boyett said every Florida member of the U.S. House will be representing a different body of people “which may make them reconsider what interest and what people they’re speaking for.”
“You’ll have to watch the campaign ads to see if it affects their messages.”