Redistricting Maps Starting to Move in Florida
The Florida Senate redistricting committee passed a Congressional map Wednesday that solidifies the strong GOP advantage in the delegation, but imperils Republican Reps. Allen West, David Rivera, Steve Southerland and Tom Rooney.
The map passed by the panel also adds two new districts, mandated by the decennial reapportionment process. One is likely to be Republican and one Democratic.
“The way it’s going, it’s not bad for Democrats,” said one in-the-know Tallahassee Republican. “I think Southerland and Rooney are OK because of the year we’re going to have, but they’re tight [races].”
West and Rivera are seen as more vulnerable. The Republican saw 2012 as an uphill climb for both.
The committee-passed Congressional map is expected to be brought up on the floor of the state Senate next week.
The state House is still working on Congressional maps, though they have released several proposals. There are some significant differences between the House maps and the one passed by the Senate committee that will have to be reconciled. Republicans have strong majorities in both chambers and also control the governor’s mansion.
Under a new state constitutional amendment passed in 2010, line-drawers are prohibited from creating maps “with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.” Any final Congressional map is likely to end up in court. Democrats are expected to sue, insisting that GOP mapmakers didn’t follow the new legal guidance. Still, political operatives from both parties expect Democrats to pick up between two and four seats.
Beyond state law, new lines must comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which mandates that the Department of Justice or the federal court in Washington, D.C., “pre-clear” any changes.
All that means it could be a long time yet before Members know what district they are running in. Florida, along with New York, remain the two big question marks in redistricting this cycle.
Calls to Rivera and his spokesman were not returned Thursday afternoon — they were both at an event in the district.
“This is another early step in what will be a very long process,” Rooney spokesman Michael Mahaffey said in a statement. “Congressman Rooney is focused on serving the people of the current 16th district.”
Southerland spokesesman Matt McCullough noted that the freshman was the first Republican to win the seat in 130 years.
“The proposed redraw does little to change the conservative disposition of our district,” McCullough said in a statement. “President Obama underperformed in District 2 under the current lines, and he underperforms under the new map. Rep. Southerland’s focus remains on serving the people of the Second District, and we feel very comfortable in making our case to the voters regardless of where the boundaries lie.”
Asked by Roll Call early December if he was worried about redistricting, West seemed at ease. “Why would I worry about something that’s not final?” West asked rhetorically. “In the Bible, in Matthew, Chapter 6, it says, ‘Do not worry.'”