Veteran Tallahassee legislator Al Lawson, a Democrat, intends to run for Congress again, this time with the help of the GOP.
“Big Al” said he is going to make another stab at the Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, a tea party Republican who ousted long-time Democratic Congressman Allen Boyd in 2010.
After being termed out of the Senate in 2010, Lawson lost in a brutal primary by about 2,000 votes to Boyd, who held the seat for 16 years before losing to Southerland.
But the maps drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature, slated to be voted out of the Senate this week and sent on their way to Attorney General Pam Bondi and ultimately the courts for review, may give Lawson (and other Democrats) a leg up against the incumbent from Panama City.
Five GOP-leaning counties that helped Southerland get to Washington – Okaloosa, Walton, Dixie, Lafayette and Suwannee – will no longer be in the District 2 North Florida seat if the maps withstand Department of Justice scrutiny and expected legal challenges.
Lawson said one of the reasons he’s running again is because he didn’t like what Southerland said after Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot last summer. Southerland suggested his $174,000-a-year Congressional salary wasn’t worth the safety risks and the time away from his family and funeral home business.
“Throughout my political career, I’ve always fought hard for workers, for economic development and jobs for this district. And this Southerland complained about his $174,000 salary that was taking away from his business,” Lawson, who served in the Florida House and Senate for nearly three decades, said in a telephone interview. Lawson said he intends to formally file to run for the seat next week.
“He seems to be more concerned about the tea party than concerned about his distict where you have high unemployment, and people need somebody to fight for them in Congress. I have a 28-year history of doing that and it’s something the people need,” Lawson said. “I just need to retire him. And let him go back to the funeral home business.”
Lawson could face another veteran state lawmaker in what may be a crowded primary. Nancy Argenziano, a former Republican who switched to become an independent, wants to run as a Democrat for the seat. But she can’t because of a provision included in an election law (controversial for other reasons) approved by lawmakers last year and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in June. That provision bars candidates from switching parties one year before the qualifying period for the general election begins, meaning the candidate must be registered in the party for nearly 18 months before the 2012 November election. Argenziano, who served in both the state House and Senate and also as the chairwoman of the Florida Public Service Commission, is challenging that part of the election law in court.
State Rep. Leonard Bembry, a Greenville Democrat and Boyd look-alike, also intends to run for the seat.