Florida Redistricting: The Latest

Jan. 14, 2016 — The Florida court-ordered redistricting saga continues with new developments regularly changing the political atmospherics. Back in early July, the Florida state Supreme Court struck down eight of the state’s congressional districts – four Republican-held; four Democratic – for reasons of “partisan gerrymandering.”

The map has been changed, enacted, and now fully reported. Since the exact boundaries have found their way into the public domain, we can now see that virtually the entire state has been affected. Mandating boundary alterations in eight districts translated into changing 24 of the state’s 27 CDs. The only three to remain intact are a trio of Republican seats: FL-1 (Rep. Jeff Miller-Pensacola; northwest Florida Panhandle); FL-8 (Rep. Bill Posey; Cape Canaveral to Vero Beach); and FL-19 (Rep. Curt Clawson; Ft. Myers-Cape Coral to Marco Island).

One, Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Jupiter) 18th District (Ft. Pierce to West Palm Beach), saw less than a one percent change. The two districts altered the most are Rep. Corrine Brown’s (D-Jacksonville) 5th District and GOP Rep. Dan Webster’s 10th CD (Orlando).

The Brown seat that formerly stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, touching Gainesville and Sanford along the way, now encompasses territory from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. It is still heavily African American, but the original region has been divided over six districts. The largest portion of the 2011-drawn seat, a 40.1 percent population segment, is actually in Orlando. Her Jacksonville anchor maintains just 38.2 percent of the former FL-5 constituency.

The Webster seat is also split among six districts with the incumbent being left with only 39.5 percent of the constituents who re-elected him in 2014. The new 10th is unwinnable for a Republican, and it is unlikely that Webster will run here considering three strong candidates, and possibly Rep. Brown herself, are already in the race.

Several members have impending decisions. Rep. Brown, now acknowledging she has received a federal investigation subpoena for an undisclosed subject, is trying to decide whether to run in the new 5th and face strong Democratic primary opposition, or elsewhere. In the new CD-5 contest is former state Senate Minority leader and two-time congressional candidate Al Lawson. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (previously saying he would not run against Brown, now indicates he may enter an open seat race) is a possibility here, as is 2nd District Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee).

Additionally, Rep. Brown has not ruled out running in the Orlando portion of her current district (in the new 10th), but that would mean facing former police chief Val Demmings, who just won endorsements from both Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the EMILY’S List organization, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, and former state Democratic chairman Bob Poe. The whole situation here is yet to be decided, but Rep. Brown’s long consideration period makes her candidacy weaker irrespective of where she ultimately runs.

Rep. Webster is also searching for a district. The neighboring 11th, of which he already represents almost 18 percent of the new constituency could be a landing zone for the three-term incumbent. The new FL-11 is open because Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Hernando County) is not seeking re-election. Webster is also reportedly testing the waters in the open 6th District, of which he currently represents a little over eight percent of the newly configured territory. Current incumbent Ron DeSantis (R-Daytona) is running for Senate.

Rep. Graham has not indicated where she will run, but has been impressive on the fundraising trail. She now has more than $1.7 million in her campaign account. Like Webster, her new 2nd District is unwinnable for a member of her party; hence, she must determine her next political move. The congresswoman could enter the fray in the 5th, but seems disinclined to do so. Her Tallahassee base is now there, but the city’s heavy African-American vote is likely to go to Lawson or Gillum, thereby leaving her with little advantage going into Jacksonville, where the largest cluster of voters reside. Hopping into the Senate race is another possibility, either in 2016 or 2018. The governor’s race will be open in the latter year, too, because incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Two upended members who have made decisions are representatives Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and Lois Frankel (D-West Palm Beach). They are running in each other’s district. Deutch, the 21st District incumbent will run in new District 22, and Frankel, the District 22 Representative, will run in CD 21. Both will win re-election assuming no major Democratic primary challenger comes forward. Duetch and Frankel are running in a situation where they currently represent less than a majority of the constituency, so they each have risk. They are making the switch because their personal political power base resides in the opposite district.

Florida’s candidate filing deadline is May 6, so all of these incumbents and potential candidates still have weeks to make a decision. The state’s plurality primary is Aug. 30.

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