So most people are familiar that Florida recently undertook the decennial process of redistricting and because of recent fair district standards, many observers figured that Democrats would make huge gains in the vastly gerrymandered legislature. Unfortunately, due to various legal and political blunders, led in no small part by Chair Rod Smith, Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich and incoming House Leader Perry Thurston, we may have sacrificed precious opportunities to pick up seats in both the House and Senate. These three amigos prevented House Democrats from presenting an alternative map that couldve created better opportunities for more pickups in the House. They also nearly derailed our efforts to get a better Senate map which I'll explain in another diary.
Many neutral observers have speculated that the recently passed State House map could result in Democrats gaining up to 15 seats over two cycles, giving the Republicans a 66-54 advantage. However, this fails to take into account that the House map actually weakens up to 7 of our incumbent Democrats. Let's explore that a little more:
District 9: Michele Rehwinkel-Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee)
Rep Vasilinda on paper represents a very Democratic district, having voted for Alex Sink by 27 points. However, the seat is has very blue-doggish tendencies. Obama only won the seat by 6 points under this new configuration and Vasilinda consistently underperformed the top of the ticket in both her campaigns.
The irony is that Vasilinda may have sealed her own fate at the expense of two other Democratic seats in the region. During the committee process, word has it that Michele struck a deal with Chair Weatherford to keep her seat entirely in Leon County, which all but doomed the seats of Rep. Leonard Bembry (D- Greenville) and Rep. Marti Coley (R-Marianna) who's seat is ancestrally Democratic.
Michele may hold on but she is extremely vulnerable to a strong Republican candidate. Even if she loses the seat itll likely be won back by a more competent Democrat.
District 7: Leonard Bembry (D- Greenville)
This is the seat that got screwed due to Rep. Vasilinda's maneuvering. The seat originally voted against Obama 40-59 but was a district that Alex Sink won. Now with the district having taken some tough area from Rep. Coley's district, its now a district that Sink lost by 3 points and Obama lost by 26 points !!!! Either way, the seat is all but lost to us unless its a good year for Dems in Florida.
District 47: Scott Randolph (D- Orlando)
Rep. Scott Randolph is a rising star of the FL Democratic Party and as the Orange County DEC Chair, recently announced he is running to be the next state Chairman. His district saw a huge drop in Democratic performance, becoming a district Obama only won by 2 percent and Sink won by 5. While trending Democratic, this election will be tough for Randolph and should be seen as a test to his organizing ability when he runs for Chair. This seat is truly a tossup, but if theres a Dem who can hold it, itll be Scott Randolph.
District 69: Rick Kriseman (D- St Petersburg)
This district also saw a huge drop in performance, as the district had to lose some liberal parts of midtown St Pete. Kriseman is a nice guy and good Representative but may be just a bit too liberal and outspoken for this swing district in moderate Tampa Bay. Kriseman is said to be preparing to run for Mayor of St Petersburg in 2013 and could be caught off guard this cycle
District 120: Ron Saunders (D- Tavernier)
The district of the outgoing House Minority Leader has always been a swing district based in swingy Monroe County. While the seat was made slightly more Democratic, former Saunder aide Holly Raschein is running as a Republican and she seems to have scared most of the stronger Dems from running against her. However, this race could be one of the marquee of the cycle since Obama will have to compete heavily in south Miami-Dade and Monroe to win statewide.
Democrats in Florida are likely to be heavily outspent this cycle, so these 5 seats will be important to watch if Democrats are to become relevant again in the House.