Former Winter Park City Commissioner Karen Diebel is already in the running for a new congressional seat that has yet to be created.
The June 16 announcement came just four days before the first public hearing on how the state will redraw congressional districts to fit two new seats, as well as redrawing congressional and Florida Legislature districts statewide.
The 2010 census indicated that Florida would need to add two U.S. congressional districts to its current 25 to accommodate population growth. Now speculation has turned to the Orlando area, where districts will likely be redrawn substantially and a new district may be created. The metro Orlando area saw the largest population gains in the state in the last 10 years, according to census data.
Diebel’s plan is to fill whatever new seat is added in the Central Florida area. This will be her second run at Congress in two years after narrowly losing in a Republican primary to Sandy Adams, the eventual winner of Florida’s 24th District congressional seat in 2010.
“My reasons and motivation remain the same,” Diebel said. “I think we haven’t gotten the changes right going forward. I’d like to help with that.”
Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley congratulated her on her candidacy and said he looks forward to seeing her campaign take shape.
“She’s a good listener, very cautious and concerned about financial situations and very mindful of making sure we don’t spend money needlessly,” Bradley said. “I’d love to have her in Congress representing us.”
But what area she’ll have a run at representing has yet to be defined. More than two dozen public forums are scheduled to discuss the redistricting process across the state, as public officials grapple with how to change the shape of districts to fit new ones, as well as working with new laws passed in 2010 that would mandate tighter, more contiguous districts.
Those laws were passed in voter referendums to attempt to end “gerrymandered” districts that stretch in odd shapes to favor candidates from one political party over another. One of the more notorious Florida legislative districts, District 29, stretches more than 100 miles south to north through Indian River and Brevard counties, at one point pinching down to only a few miles wide near Cocoa to enable it to continue another 20 miles north.
Adams’ District 24, which passes directly through Winter Park, will need to be rearranged to lose 75,000 residents from its area, though Adams’ chief of staff, Charlie Keller, said it’s tough to tell whether those residents could become part of the newly created district.
“It’s pure speculation at this point,” Keller said. “We haven’t really been discussing where the lines are going to be because it’s going to be out of our hands until at least the start of 2012.”
Regardless of the eventual shape of the district Diebel hopes to represent, Sarah Rumpf, a former campaign consultant for Diebel, said that she’s made an important move getting into the running first. “She’s done well to establish herself as the front-runner being out there first,” Rumpf said. “It’s not a guaranteed slam dunk that you win, but it’s a big advantage.”
Diebel said the redrawing process could take more than six months.
“We may not know where the district lines are drawn until early next year with the way the Legislature is communicating that,” Diebel said. “Until they draw the district lines, we’re just setting up.”
Visit www.karendiebel.com for more information.