Florida 3rd District
Before the Civil War, most of Florida was still an uncharted watery wilderness, festooned with exotic greenery, inhabited by unusual animals, a part of the United States so far out of the experience of most Americans as to seem foreign. As late as 1940, Florida had the smallest population of any Southern state, and most of the people here lived in classic Dixie rural counties with small courthouse towns, where civic affairs were run by the richest white men and African-Americans lived in poorly constructed, unpainted shotgun shacks propped up on blocks, with little money and no vote. This was a land of swamps, lakes and orange groves, and of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s Cross Creek, where she wrote the great children’s classic The Yearling. The broad St. Johns River, one of the few North American rivers that flows (if only sluggishly) north, meanders through orange-grove country to the port of Jacksonville, which was for many years Florida’s largest city. In 2008, the port supported nearly 50,000 jobs in the area.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of Florida occupies much of this swampy terrain. The district was created in 1992 to be north Florida’s black-majority seat and has had three sets of boundaries. The district borders five Republican-held districts, each of which was designed to shift as many Democrats as possible to the 3rd to strengthen Republicans elsewhere. In its current form, it follows the St. Johns River upstream from Jacksonville’s city center to downtown Orlando, reaching out to pluck additional minority and Democratic voters from Sanford, where Amtrak’s Auto Train unloads its Florida-bound travelers, and Gainesville, home of the University of Florida. Along the way, the district takes in smaller black settlements, such as lettuce-producing Zellwood, and Eatonville, home of author Zora Neale Hurston. In time, this relatively unpopulated, lake-filled region may become Florida’s next development frontier. After losing population early in the decade, the district grew 3.2% from 2000 to 2007. It is solidly Democratic.