Aug. 10, 2015 — Prior to the opening of the special state legislative session convened to re-draw the Florida congressional map, Sunshine State legislative leaders released their initial plan late last week. It is likely that his map will not pass in its current form, but it does provide a good starting point.
The plan radically changes four districts and makes several more competitive, but allows the GOP a chance at maintaining its 17-10 delegation majority.
Three districts are designed to change hands. What the state Supreme Court isolated as the focal point for declaring eight of the 27 districts as legally non-conforming, Tampa Bay’s District 13 — Rep. David Jolly (R) — would become decidedly more Democratic according to the 2012 presidential election result. The addition of St. Petersburg to this seat, as directed by the court, represents a Democratic voter increase of 9.2 percent based upon the previous configuration. With incumbent Jolly now in the Senate race, FL-13 becomes a prime conversion opportunity for Democrats most likely in the person of former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Rep. Kathy Castor’s (D-Tampa) 14th District, that loses the St. Petersburg Democratic stronghold, does become more Republican but remains safe for her (58 percent Obama). Similarly, the 3rd District of Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Gainesville) gets decidedly more Democratic, but remains a 57 percent Mitt Romney domain.
The likely Republican loss of District 13 is negated by what appears to be a sure gain in northern Florida. Taking the high court’s direction, Rep. Corinne Brown’s 5th District would travel due west from Jacksonville all the way through Tallahassee and beyond. Currently, the 5th meanders south from Jacksonville through Gainesville, Sanford, and part of Orlando.
The change means that Rep. Gwen Graham’s (D-Tallahassee) 2nd District becomes overwhelmingly Republican. Currently, using the same 2012 presidential scale, the 2nd District skews Republican by 5.8 percent. The new plan would take it to a 65 percent Romney district, a net gain of almost 25 Republican points. Should this configuration be adopted, Graham would almost certainly hop into the Senate race, or wait for a 2018 statewide opening, because her chances of being re-elected would be almost non-existent.
The other sitting incumbent left without a district is Rep. Dan Webster (R-Orlando). His 10th District would go from a 46 percent Obama district to a 61 percent Democratic voting CD. Though neighboring Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D-Orlando) open 9th District becomes more Republican -– it would still be a 56 percent Obama district -– and not much of a landing point for Webster even with the incumbent departing for the Senate race.
To negate this loss, Republicans would be looking at what should be a reasonable chance of gaining District 18 in the Palm Beach area. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) has twice been able to win this 52 percent Romney CD, but his entrance into the Senate race gives the GOP the edge in an open contest. Rather surprisingly, the new map does not strengthen the FL-18 Republican number, but the voting history still suggests an open seat GOP victory, Rep. Murphy’s past performance, notwithstanding.
Rep. Ron DeSantis’ (R-Daytona) FL-6 district also becomes more Democratic, but at 52 percent Romney, the open seat still should remain in the Republican column. DeSantis is yet another Senate candidate. Rep. John Mica’s (R-Winter Park) 7th District becomes more Democratic and is now evenly split between the two parties. But, Mica has been able to carry this region impressively for 12 terms, so he remains a strong favorite to hold.
Turning to South Florida, freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami) gets almost a three-point Republican boost, which should help him secure a second term. Conversely, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Miami) 27th CD would become three points more Democratic, taking it to a 54 percent Obama level. But, Ros-Lehtinen has held her seat since winning a special election in 1989, after first being elected to the state legislature in 1982. She has always run well with South Florida Democrats, so the addition of even more will not likely damage her. She was unopposed in 2014.
The legislature must pass a map and have Gov. Rick Scott (R) sign it into law. The state Supreme Court must then approve. The new lines will take effect for the 2016 election.