When an audio recording of a closed-door meeting among officials with the Republican Party of Florida, including Baker County committeeman and soon-to-be Macclenny city commissioner Danny Norton, was leaked to the media last week just about every political reporter in the state began salivating.
The incident was reminiscent of Mitt Romney’s comments about “the 99 percent,” just not on the same scale. Rather than GOP front runner in a presidential bid, the recording was of state Representative Janet Adkins speaking about the newly drawn district likely to be assigned to Democrat Congresswoman Corrine Brown, which stretches from Jacksonville west to Tallahassee and encompasses all of Baker County.
She was pointing out the proposed district includes many prisons with inmates who are counted for the purposes of drawing political districts, a circumstance she said could prove to be a “perfect storm” for the Republican Party.
I understand why that may raise some eyebrows for Democrats, and smell like red meat to political pundits.
The implication was this: prisons have a lot of minorities, who would likely vote for Corrine Brown if they could. But generally speaking, they likely won’t due to their incarceration. It’s also difficult to get a felon’s voting rights back after release from prison.
So there’s the racial element.
On top of that, Rep. Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach), who formerly represented Baker County, specifically asked if reporters were in the room before she spoke. After she was told there were none, she starting laying out what she called “the inside ball game,” which was essentially that the proposed district for Rep. Brown could make it easier for a Republican to unseat her.
“Danny, you, you can be the person that will help get rid of Corrine Brown,” she told Mr. Norton.
Such comments could surely damage her credibility with “mixed” audiences. They also make her sound very partisan, and at time when many voters get turned off by such divisive rhetoric.
But despite all of this, no one should be shocked or surprised by her comments. It was a meeting of GOP officials from North Florida in Tampa. They were discussing electoral strategy, and the benefits of the proposed District 5.
Honestly what else could be on the agenda?
Plus, the number of prisoners in the district is not enough to skew the election more than one or two percentage points, which means for it to have any impact the race would need be really, really tight.
Mr. Norton agreed the reaction to the leak has been overblown, but he was more concerned with the leak itself. He said only about 20 party members were at the meeting, so the pool of would be leakers is small.
He also said he didn’t take Rep. Adkins comments in the way they’ve been portrayed in the press, “as we’re going to get rid of Corrine Brown and this is how we’re going to do it.”
He conceded the proposed district would be more competitive for Rep. Brown, who may fear a primary challenge from the young, black mayor of Tallahassee more than having more inmates in her district.
But that also means safe GOP districts in Northeast and Central Florida could also become more competitive for Republicans.
I would say that sounds like a pretty fair trade.