By Jim Ellis
April 15, 2022 — After vetoing the legislature’s congressional map and forcing a special legislative session to finish the redistricting process, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) now commands the upper hand. As a result, legislative leaders say they are willing to pass his map.
Applying the district political numbers that the MCI Maps organization calculated, we see 20 of the 28 new districts that would have voted for former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden. Overlaying the Ron DeSantis-Andrew Gillum governor’s race of 2018, a total of 18 new CDs would have supported the current state chief executive. Today’s Florida congressional delegation splits 16R-11D.
The major point of contention during the regular legislative session pertains to the elimination of the current northern Florida majority minority 5th District of Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) that stretches from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. Gov. DeSantis wants a race neutral map. Should his map be enacted, there is no question that lawsuits would be filed immediately, and this fight could lead to a fundamental examination of the national Voting Rights Act.
Assuming the map clears the legal hurdles, the Republicans could add as many as four seats to the Sunshine State delegation, which would negate Democratic gains in New York, for example. Many of the new districts could lead to increased competition for GOP members, however, as several would drop into lean Republican seats instead of ones that are currently safe.
The only displaced incumbent is Rep. Lawson, as he would have no reasonable place from which to seek re-election. His situation would then create another seat in the Jacksonville area and give current 4th District Rep. John Rutherford (R-Jacksonville) likely the choice of running in new District 4 or 5.
As a result of this northern state map strategy, Rep. Neal Dunn’s (R-Panama City) 2nd CD would become significantly less Republican, largely because the entire city of Tallahassee would be placed in his new CD. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the current 2nd as R+40. Ex-President Trump would have carried the new 2nd with 54.86 percent, with Gov. DeSantis approximately a percentage point lower.