MIAMI — Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo has no plans to be at the Florida Legislature’s special session next week to approve the state’s congressional districts.
Her boycott, which she announced Wednesday, stems from a letter signed this week by both Republican leaders in the Legislature — Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls — stating they would rather get Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signoff on a new congressional map before submitting one of their own.
The public acknowledgment that they will defer to DeSantis on a process historically led by the Legislature has caused ripples among voting rights groups and redistricting experts alike, who say the move is unprecedented and gives DeSantis unilateral power to decide how Florida will be represented in Congress in a midterm election year that’s likely to benefit Republicans.
But rather than going to Tallahassee, Taddeo says she opposes “wasting taxpayer money to go there,” when legislative leaders have all but ceded the job of redrawing maps to the governor. Taddeo is campaigning for the Democratic nomination for governor to oppose DeSantis in November.
“I’m not going to play the game anymore, I am not here to play the game. I don’t need an elected position, I have a job, I have a family, I have it all. I am here to really make a difference for Floridians, and we as Democrats, if we don’t stand up for this, I don’t know what we will stand up for,” Taddeo said.
There’s been plenty of outrage from Florida Democrats as Republicans have wrestled over how to draw Florida’s congressional maps, including two weeks ago when DeSantis vetoed the congressional map approved by the Florida House and Senate because it did not dismantle the North Florida Congressional District 5 and Orlando’s Congressional District 10, which both favor Black candidates. DeSantis’ main argument is that both districts are illegally gerrymandered to favor one minority group, and he wants to draw districts that are “race-neutral.”
It doesn’t seem, though, that any Democrats in the Legislature are so far backing Taddeo in her boycott. Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book of Plantation declined to comment for this story.
When asked about Taddeo’s call for a boycott during a news conference in Tallahassee, fellow gubernatorial candidate and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried declined to say whether she supported the move.
“The Legislature has done something extremely dangerous. They have given absolute power to this governor to draw maps for our congressional districts. That responsibility is supposed to be in the Legislature. I’m not in the Legislature, so it’s not my decision or my choice or even my advice of what the Democratic caucus should be doing. But it is irresponsible of this Legislature to have given so much power over to the governor knowing that he has abused it time and time again,” Fried said.
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And in a statement, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, also running in the Democratic primary to challenge DeSantis, said he believed it was important to have Democrats — who face a majority of Republicans in the Senate and a supermajority in the House — speak on the floor.
“I think it’s important that our legislators are on the record regarding Gov. DeSantis’ abuse of power. What he’s trying to do is illegal and we need to build the legislative record because all of this will be decided ultimately by the courts. There’s a lot at stake here both locally and nationally,” Crist said.
Undeterred, Taddeo said she couldn’t go to Tallahassee and “pretend like everything’s hunky dory” during the approval of Florida’s new congressional districts next week, which she called a “farce.”
“I’m hoping that the court decides to go with the properly drawn map according to the voters’ intent where they overwhelmingly said don’t draw it politically towards one party or another,” said Taddeo, referring to Florida’s Fair Districts amendments that DeSantis wants to challenge. “I don’t know what will happen with that, but I am not going to waste taxpayers’ money or my time or pretend like me speaking on the floor is going to make a difference or change a vote.”
Taddeo said the only way she will go to Tallahassee is if legislators are able to add the state’s rising property insurance crisis to the special session’s agenda. Asked what she will do next week instead of going to Tallahassee, Taddeo said she will be dealing with “real issues.”
“Whatever it is that I’m doing, it’ll be something to help people with the real issues, whether it’s insurance or the rental crisis. That’s what we should be dealing with. Now, if they add that (property insurance) to the agenda, I’ll be there. One hundred. With bells on.”
Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau staff writer Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.
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