Category Archives: Redistricting

Jindal Out of Presidential Race;
Virginia Redistricting Update

Nov. 19, 2015 — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal became the third Republican casualty of this 2016 presidential contest by suspending his campaign Tuesday. He joins Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and ex-Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) on the GOP political sidelines. Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) and ex-Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D-RI) have already exited stage left for the Democrats.

Gov. Jindal was hoping to make major inroads in Iowa, notching a respectable score there in the Feb. 1 Caucus vote, which theoretically could give him the momentum to become a top-tier candidate. But, his objective simply wasn’t coming to fruition. Though the governor was making some progress in Iowa – at least one poll had him as high as six percent – it was clear that his effort was falling short of what he needed to continue.

Therefore, 14 candidates remain, still the largest of all past Republican presidential fields. The Jindal exit won’t much change the flow of the campaign because he was not a factor anywhere but arguably Iowa. Never making the primetime debate, and his sagging popularity in his home state where even the Republican nominee to succeed him, Sen. David Vitter, is attempting to tie Democrat John Bel Edwards to his faltering Administration combined to place him in an untenable position for the national race. Hence, the obstacles proved too large for him to become viable. Continue reading

Florida Rep. Nugent to Retire

Nov. 4, 2015 — Three-term Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL-11), the former Hernando County Sheriff, surprisingly announced Monday that he will not seek re-election next year, making this the 26th open seat for the 2016 election cycle.

Nugent cited the long absences from his family and a lesser desire to serve as chief reasons for retiring after a short stint in the House. According to his announcement release the congressman stated, “we care deeply about shrinking the size and scope of government; we care deeply about restoring America’s place in the world. We’ll get somebody new with real fire in the belly who shares our beliefs and is ready to give it a shot in Washington.”

Nugent’s tenure in office was not without controversy. A former member of the House Rules Committee, the congressman was relieved of his post when he voted for fellow Florida Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL-10) in the early 2015 Speaker’s election. In response, then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) quickly removed both men as members of the partisan rules body.

His first election to the House raised eyebrows as well. When Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL-5) retired in 2010, she did so just as the filing deadline expired, thereby giving then-Sheriff Nugent the only inside track to the seat. He was the one potential major candidate who was given pre-announcement notice of the impending vacancy, and took full advantage of the lack of competition for the open House seat.

The Central Florida 11th District stretches from Ocala and The Villages communities in the northeast, west to the Gulf of Mexico, and then south as far as Spring Hill. The relatively compact seat is safely Republican and did not experience much change as it relates to the proposed congressional re-districting map that currently sits before the sate Supreme Court.

It is in this area that Nugent may have tipped his hand too early. The proposed redistricting plan makes only cosmetic changes to his CD and leaves it intact as a core Republican seat. But, the plan is not yet final, and seeing that they have another open seat to work with, it is conceivable the court could still change the boundaries to provide a better geographic flow and benefit the Democrats. The seat sits between Rep. Corinne Brown’s (D-FL-5) Jacksonville-Gainesville-Sanford-Orlando district and representatives David Jolly (R-FL-13) and Kathy Castor’s (D-FL-14) CDs, both in the Tampa Bay region. All of these districts were declared illegal, and the Nugent seat is certainly close enough to all of them to make further late changes plausible.

FL-11 now becomes the fifth open seat just in the Sunshine State. Nugent joins representatives Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), Alan Grayson (D-FL-9), David Jolly (R-FL-13), and Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) as members who will not be returning to Congress as House members after the next election. DeSantis, Grayson and Murphy are all running for the Senate.

It is also possible that Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2), who the redistricting plan displaced from her 2nd District in the northern Florida Panhandle, will also join the list of House members not seeking re-election. She may enter the Senate race, challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Corinne Brown for the newly constituted 5th District that now will encompass the city of Tallahassee, which is Graham’s political base, or skip an election and run for a statewide post in 2018. The congresswoman says she will decide her 2016 political plans once the new congressional lines become final.

The Florida Switch

Oct. 20, 2015 — Central Florida House Republicans are getting nervous. The new redistricting plan, which the state Supreme Court is likely to soon adopt, is not kind to the middle-state GOP incumbents. In preparation, press rumors are floating that several members will switch districts in order for each to have a winnable place to run next year.

Under the lower court’s proposed map, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) is the odd man out. His current Orlando-anchored district goes from a 46 percent Obama district to one where the president scored 61 percent. Therefore, the new 10th District becomes unwinnable for Webster even by his own admission.

Ironically, Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D) 9th District, now a 62 percent Obama district becomes even more Republican than the new 10th. The new southeastern Orlando suburban 9th would carry a 56 percent Obama rating, but even this Republican improvement would not yield a GOP victory particularly in a presidential election year. The 9th will be an open seat because Rep. Grayson is running for the Senate.

Rep. John Mica’s (R) 7th District is currently a 47 percent Obama district that would move to 49 percent Obama because the city of Sanford is annexed, which makes it a virtual tie at the presidential level (Mitt Romney also scored 49 percent). The open 6th District, northeast of the 7th that hugs the Atlantic coast from Daytona through Volusia County, is the seat Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) is vacating to run for Senate. This district gets more Democratic, too, but should remain in Republican hands. Originally, the 6th gave 41 percent of its votes to Obama; now, it would be 46 percent.

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Florida Redistricting Lines
Almost Complete

Oct. 13, 2015 — The Republican troubles in the US House look to be getting worse as the long-awaited Florida redistricting process is at last taking shape. The state Supreme Court struck down portions of the map back in early July and, with the state legislature not passing new legislation in their abbreviated special session, the high court returned the plan to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to serve as the redistricting special master. The original lawsuit was filed in Lewis’ court.

On Friday, Judge Lewis released his map, choosing one of the Democratic plaintiffs’ submissions, saying this plan best fulfills the Supreme Court’s sated objectives. The new map now goes to the Supreme Court for final approval.

The partisan numbers figure to favor Democrats by one to as many as four seats. Most likely, assuming no additional retirements among incumbents, the Democrats will probably gain one or two seats. There is a scenario, however, where Republicans could still break even. The Florida delegation splits 17R-10D under the current map.

The members likely to lose under the new configuration are representatives Gwen Graham (D-FL-2) and Dan Webster (R-FL-10) the latter of whom, ironically, is currently a candidate for House Speaker. Rep. David Jolly’s 13th District will also go Democratic, likely to former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) who said he would run if his St. Petersburg home was drawn into the district.

Continue reading

Florida Chaos; Kentucky Caucus

Aug. 25, 2015 — Like what happened last week in Virginia when the Republican legislature fumbled the redistricting special session and adjourned before drawing a map, the Florida GOP legislative leadership quickly followed suit. On Friday, the special redistricting legislative session adjourned without producing a new congressional plan. The irregular assembly was court ordered to correct legal deficiencies in eight federal districts.

To summarize, the Florida Supreme Court struck down parts of the congressional map on July 9 remanding it back to the state legislature because the eight seats, four from each party, did not comply with partisan and communication restrictions that pertain to an enacted 2010 redistricting voter initiative.

Why did the meltdown occur, and what happens now? In short, politics is the basic reason, thereby yielding a situation where both Republicans and Democrats will be making subsequent moves.

The session deteriorated for several reasons other than failing to agree upon new congressional district boundaries. At the top of the list looms a redistricting session expected to begin in October to reconfigure the state Senate.

Though the high court did not invalidate the Senate map, it was obvious such would soon be the case. Therefore, the legislative leaders went ahead and voluntarily scheduled a re-draw. Understanding this caveat, it is not surprising that internal state Senate political considerations would trump the legislature complying with their requirement to change the affected congressional districts. When personal career choices conflict with congressional politics in the halls of a legislature, the former will take precedence every time.

Secondly, the Hillsborough County legislators strenuously objected to their domain being segmented into four different sections under the proposed plan. The large Tampa Bay area delegation proved to have enough strength to help force the stalemate.

Additionally, court politics proved a significant factor in failing to reach an accord. While Republicans are in solid control of the state legislature (Senate: 26R-14D; House: 81R-39D), the Democrats have the majority on the seven-member state Supreme Court.

In Florida, judges have service limits and, before his second term ends, Gov. Rick Scott (R) will be able to change the court’s complexion. Obviously, the Democrats want to maintain their advantage. They also want to make substantial gains during the state Senate redistricting session, optimizing their check in that the state Supreme Court will approve all boundary changes. Therefore, prospective court appointments became political footballs during the special session.

Two options are now on the table to complete the congressional re-drawing process. First, Gov. Scott could call the legislature back into session in order to avoid ceding the redistricting pen wholly to the state Supreme Court. If so, the process begins again. Not doing so means the map would simply revert to the state high court, thus empowering the Justices themselves to draw the new plan.

Considering the partisan composition of the court, Republicans will want to avoid the court option. Yet, if the handling of this original special session is any indication of what may happen in the future, failing again to complete the task is certainly possible should the legislature return. Legislative bodies relinquishing power to the courts over tough political decisions is something that happens all too often, so the Florida Supreme Court eventually determining the fate of the Sunshine State congressmen may well be an eventuality.

The Kentucky Caucus

The Republican Party of Kentucky, at its state convention over the weekend, voted to change their 2016 presidential primary system to a caucus. This will allow favorite son Sen. Rand Paul to compete in the presidential event while continuing to appear on the ballot for his re-election. Over 75% of the voting members supported the caucus motion.

Sen. Paul had asked for the change and agreed to guarantee the $500,000 necessary to finance the caucus procedure. The state party must receive $250,000 by Sept. 18 in order to move forward with the caucus logistics. Each participating candidate will be charged $15,000. If the funds are secured, the caucus will be held March 5. If not, the procedure reverts to a May primary.