Florida Musical Chairs Shuffles West, Rooney, Hasner
Updated 8:15 p.m. | The music just stopped in the Sunshine State and everyone still has a seat — at least until voters hit the polls.
After a redistricting map similar to what is likely to become law shifted the political prospects of a number of Members last week, three Florida politicians made big announcements today to shake up the Senate race and three House races.
Rep. Tom Rooney (R), who currently represents the 16th district, announced he would run in the proposed 17th district; freshman Rep. Allen West (R), a fundraising juggernaut who currently represents the 22nd district, announced he would run in the proposed 18th district; and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner dropped his bid for Senate, a source close to him said, and will run in the state’s proposed 22nd district. All are likely to have a better shot at joining the 113th Congress under their chosen political boundaries.
Hasner struggled to break through to voters in the race for the GOP nomination to take on two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D). Polls consistently had him in single digits. Rep. Connie Mack IV remains the early frontrunner to get the GOP Senate nod.
The proposed 17th district would have voted 56 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election; the proposed 18th would have voted 51 percent for Barack Obama that cycle; and the proposed 22nd would have been a 57 percent Obama district, according to numbers crunched by a Republican source.
Calling these concurrent decisions “musical chairs,” a plugged-in Republican source with knowledge of Florida said both Rooney and West “have stakes in both districts.” Rooney currently represents 37 percent of the proposed district he will run in; West represents 23 percent of the proposed district he will run in, according to calculations by the state Legislature.
Hasner, who is Jewish, will have a reasonable shot in the now-open Democratic-leaning 22nd district. Much of his old state House district is in that district, so he’ll have a leg up over other potential GOP contenders. “If there’s one guy who can pick the lock on this seat,” it’s Hasner, a GOP source familiar with the district said. Still, it’s a Democratic seat in a presidential year, so he’ll have a real race. Hasner had about $667,00 in cash on hand at the end of December.
“If you look at the money Hasner’s raised, it makes a lot of sense for a Congressional run but not for a Senate race,” a Florida Democratic operative said.
Under the map likely to become law, Florida Democratic and Republican strategists expect Democrats to pick up two to four seats in the state. However, the map is likely to be challenged in court by Democrats, who hope a judge might draw lines more favorable to their party. With Republicans deciding on certain proposed districts, the Democratic source noted that any judicial action “could really throw a wrench in their plans.”
The proposed map, which has passed the state House Redistricting Committee, can be viewed here.
“With my current district, Florida’s 16th, essentially cut in half during the redistricting process, I had a difficult decision to make,” Rooney said in a statement. “Barring significant changes by the courts through legal challenges, I will run for reelection in the new Congressional District 17.”
West praised Rooney in a statement. “Congressman Rooney is a statesman and has been an honorable public servant to the constituents of Florida’s 16th Congressional district,” he said. “It is my goal to continue the success Congressman Rooney has had in Florida’s 16th Congressional district in the newly proposed 18th district. I welcome the challenges and excitement that lie ahead.”
The challenges will still be there for the outspoken freshman, who will be running in a Democratic district.
“Allen West doesn’t become any less nuclear because his district gets a few points better,” said Florida Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who ran Obama’s 2008 campaign in the state.
It’s unclear which Democrats might run against him. There are two contenders in the 22nd: former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel and businessman Patrick Murphy. Frankel said she will continue to run in the 22nd district and not against West in the 18th.
Murphy released a cryptic statement. “The truth is that the maps are far from set and I will continue to monitor the redistricting process closely,” he said.
Other unanswered questions about the Florida map remain. GOP Reps. Rich Nugent and Cliff Stearns were drawn into the same district in the proposed map. Both could run in the proposed 3rd or the proposed 11th, both Republican-leaning seats. In a statement to Roll Call last week, Stearns said, “Redistricting is an ongoing process in the Florida legislature and it’s too early to comment until a final map is approved.”
Once a new map is signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott (R), it needs to be approved in Washington, D.C., before it can be enforced. Under the Voting Rights Act, either the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has to give the OK to the new lines.