In case you haven't been noticing what’s going on in Florida, last week the state’s supreme court ruled that legislators will have to testify in front of the court regarding the 2012 reappointment phase, particularly for the State Senate and Congressional maps. In 2010, Florida Democrats had a horrible year, just like all Democrats nationwide did. But there was one silver lining that in that two constitutional amendments were passed. Amendment 5 & 6, the group behind the effort is known as Fair Districts Now (previously known as "Fair Districts Florida"), both amendments passed overwhelmingly that year with 62 and 63 percent of the vote. Amendment 5 is for the legislative map, and 6 is for the congressional map.
Amendments 5 & 6, are intended to prevent gerrymandering of the state’s legislative and congressional map. That means drawing legislative and congressional boundaries in ways that are establish as being fair, and where the city, county, geographic boundaries have commune interest. However the measures had to face road obstacles before being enacted. In this diary I will write about the timeline of amendments 5 & 6, and based on the state’s supreme court ruling, how I envision a potential court drawn congressional map, for the 2014 election cycle and foward.
Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart Lawsuits Against 5 & 6
As soon as the measures were passed, the very next day on Nov 3rd, 2010, Reps. Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) announced that they were both suing to stop the measures from happening. For years Florida has been ranked as one of the most gerrymandered states in the union, and Brown's district is the nucleus of that. For decades Brown’s district stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando, compacting as many Democratic leaning voters as possible. By connecting Jacksonville to Orlando (two cities, in two different regions of the state, that have no commune interest) as a result shoring up Republican representatives in neighboring districts. Folks like Reps. Webster, Yoho, Mica, DeSantis. Brown has time and time again, after each redistricting phase, been playing ball with the Republicans in Florida. By giving her a very safe gerrymandered district, she doesn't have to worry about having a challenging primary or general election.
For Mario Diaz-Balart, he went to go run in his brother's, Lincoln Diaz-Balart open district based in Hialeah, since he was retiring that cycle. And the reason for Mario’s abrupt district hoping was his 2008 scare. When he had a narrow win compared to all of his other wins. He won against Joe Garcia by a little over 6 percentage points. Given that he saw the voting pattern and demographic changes in which his Homestead based district was getting less Cuban, and more Democratic, Mario went to safer territory instead. Ultimately a federal judge in a United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled in favor of the amendments.
Florida GOP Stonewalling
As expected the Florida Republican Party were very much opposed to both measures, spending over $2 million dollars to defeat the measurements at the ballot box, but as mentioned before both amendments passed with over sixty percent of the vote. In where the Republicans ability to further gerrymander the state, and protect themselves from the state’s changing demographics and political shift was greatly diminished. The Florida Republican Party fought tooth and nail to try to get the amendments over turn in any feasible way. Shorty after taking office after a very narrow win in 2010, against Alex Sink, three days after being sworn in Gov. Rick Scott filed request for federal approval on January 4th, 2011, in attempts to stonewall the matter. Two months later the Florida legislature send the measures to the U.S. Justice Department for “pre-clearance” after weeks of dragging their foot on the issue. Couple of months later in May, the Justice Department approved the measures.
2011-12 Redistricting Process
After the release of the 2010 census, the population of the the state increased by 17.6 percent, gaining 2.8 million new residents. That meant Florida was going to gain 2 congressional districts. The redistricting process in Florida is that the legislature has to first pass a joint resolution, which is then sent to the state supreme court for review. If it’s accepted, the plan becomes law. If it’s not, the legislature holds a 15 day session to approve a new plan. If the second plan does not pass the court, or if the legislature fails to approve a new plan during the 15 days, the court has 60 days to design their own plan. For congressional redistricting, a bill is passed in the usual manner. The Governor of Florida can sign or veto the legislation. Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down section 5 of the Voter Rights Act, Florida was 1 of 16 states that must receive some approval from the U.S. Justice Department. They must receive a pre-clearance on the counties of Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe. Unlike the rest of the South, Florida's pre-clearance counties didn't originate due to the disenfranchised African-American voters, but rather because of disenfranchised Hispanic voters.
After the redistricting process for the congressional map was over, proponents of amendments 5 & 6 rightly pointed out that both maps favored Republicans, as a handful of districts were gerrymandered. For example the old FL-03 now FL-05 still stretched down from Jacksonville to Orlando, and the late Rep. Bill Young’s district in FL-14 still had Downtown St. Petersburg omitted from the district, and drawn into neighboring FL-13, Rep. Kathy Castor’s Tampa based district. However on February 16th, 2012 the congressional map was signed into law. After the congressional map were approved, the legislature began to work and the legislative maps, the original senate map was striked down by the state supreme court, due to the court finding that eight districts had been drawn to protect incumbents, almost all Republicans. Thus violating the new redistricting amendments. On top of that, senate Republicans renumbered the districts in such a way to allow selected incumbents to serve longer terms, since the Florida legislature has 8 year term limits in each chamber. Florida State Senate has elections that are staggered, where half of the state senate is up for reelection every two years. By swapping the district numbers in a clever way, lawmakers who were about to close in on a 8th year, were able to avoid retirement, and serve a 10th year. This was a way for Florida Republicans to avoid losing seats to retirements, and hold on to their majorities longer than expected. Eventually a new state senate map was drawn, to adjust those 8 districts of concern, it was approved by the Florida Supreme Court on April 27th, 2012, and by the DOJ three days later.
It’s always expected to have lawsuits after redistricting is completed, and this is the case in Florida, as those cases brought in front of the Florida Supreme court is still pending. With that being said, Democrats were able to make gains in the three maps passed. Starting with the congressional, the two new seats that were drawn were added to Central Florida in FL-09, to accommodate for the huge Puerto Rican growth that has taken place in the Orlando area. That district is now represented by Rep. Alan Grayson. As well as another seat added to South Florida in FL-22, which stretches from Ft. Lauderdale to West Palm Beach, currently held by Rep. Lois Frankel. Also Democrats were able to beat two incumbents, with Joe Garcia beating very corrupt David Rivera in FL-26, and Patrick Murphy beating the repulsive Alan West in FL-18, who ran from FL-22 because it was made much more Democratic during redistricting.
During the redistricting phase the state house map was not an issue, because compared to the state senate and the congressional MAPS, it is actually the fairest of all the three. It is certainly possible by the time this decade comes toward an end, that Florida Democrats can gain control of state's lower chamber, as most of the marginal seats in the chamber are held by Republicans. Most importantly those seats are in areas that are trending Democratic. With open seats in these areas without a Republican incumbent, Democrats will surely have an edge in those races in gaining those seats. Democrats were able to gain 5 seats last year, plus 1 more this past October in a special election to fill a vacancy, to narrow the GOP lead in the chamber to 75-45. Needing to net 16 seats for a majority is a tough task, but as time goes on, it becomes more and more a realistic possibility.
Prior to the 2012 elections, Republicans had a 28-12 majority in the chamber, Democrats were able to gain two seats last year, and narrow the GOP edge to 26-14. Now obviously we could had gotten better maps in Florida, if the 2010 gubernatorial election went the other way, a lot of the shenanigans the GOP did, wouldn't had pass if Alex Sink was Governor as we would had gotten even better maps,as she would have had a veto pen ready, but as mentioned in the intro, with pending challenges still in front of the court, it’s very likely we'll see big changes into the congressional and senate map as the court could end up drawing it themselves. Democratic have a 5-2 strangle on the court, hence why next years gubernatorial election so important, as the next governor could end up having a say in who the next 4 justices will be. Under a court drawn fair for the state senate, Democrats would probably gain 3-4 seats. That's not enough to take the chamber, but certainly better compared to the current margin. We'll be able to narrow the margin from 4-5 seats.
Recent Rulings & State Republicans Destroying Evidence
Two weeks ago on Dec 13th the state supreme court ruled that state members of the state legislature and their staffers must testify in a lawsuit brought up by the League of Women Voters, and other groups who are challenging the validity of the state's senate and congressional map, arguing that Republicans did not adhere here to the language in amendments 5 & 6. As well as turning over crucial document regarding the issue. But last week in a bombshell exclusive, it was reported that Republican lawmakers destroyed documents that they knew would want to be seen in court, knowing that there would be lawsuits to the maps. Because of this latest action by Florida Republicans, and seeing how the court has been ruling during the redistricting saga, I believe they will end up drawing the state senate and congressional map, which will give Democrats a huge boost in the state elections, and the national elections with congressional house races next year. Where races that was not on the radar could all of a sudden end up being in play.
Here's a map of the current congressional districts of Florida, that you can use for comparison. My whole premise of a court drawn map is to redraw districts how I imagine the court could possibly draw, that were gerrymandered in parts of the state that Republicans didn't adhere to amendment 6. Majority of those district are in North Florida with the 5th district. By drawing a new 5th, North and Central will look differently in comparison. In South Florida amendment 6 mostly adhered to in South Florida with the exception of FL-20. Under a court drawn map I predict it's likely that minor tweaks would be made to the 20th, not drastic as it is not outright catastrophic like the 5th.
Plausible Court Drawn Congressional Map
FL-02: Steve Southerland (R-Panama City)
Unlike the FL-01, this part of the Panhandle is a very Dixiecrat heavy district, as Democrats are elected at the local level. Steve Southerland is a very uninspiring and weak incumbent, and is a product of the 2010 wave. In 2012 he barely won against a candidate who raised very little money, and still manage to make it a race. The DCCC didn't start having the race on their radar until they saw how close the polls were. Unfortunately for Southerland (and good for us) he's facing an opponent whose of a political family, where their name is revered, especially in this part of the state in Gwen Graham (daughter of former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham). Graham is raising a lot of cash and managed to out raise Southerland by more than $200,000 last quarter. So in this district because of the dismantlement of the 5th, this changes lines of every North Florida district, with the exception of the 1st. Because of the 4th likely to expand to take in other counties, one of the eastern counties will be taken out. I think it's highly likely in a court drawn map if there would to be a county taken out in the 2nd, it would be Taylor County, which would actually be good for us in this case, since it mostly leans GOP. As a result all of Madison County would be now part of the 2nd, along with Hamilton County being replaced for Taylor, which leans Dem downballot, would also be included. Making the 2nd a little more Democratic, as it was in the first the original map. I have us winning this district even under current lines next year, as this district is home to Tallahassee, where you have a lot state workers in this district. It also help that Rick Scott will be on the ballot next year, Charlie Crist should be expected to trounce Scott in this part of the state, which should be a benefit to Graham
FL-04: Ander Crenshaw (R-Jacksonville)
This is a blood red district compared to Florida-01, as the counties surrounding Duval are ruby red. Because of FL-05 taking in most of Jacksonville, Crenshaw's district would have to further expand into nearly by counties, to compensate for the loss. Either way Ander Crenshaw should continue winning here in his sleep.
FL-05: Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville)
This is the district that is at the heart of having a fair map in the state of Florida. Duval County has never been a VRA protected county, but for years Florida Republicans drew it up as if it was one. In a court drawn map, you should highly expect the state supreme court to dismantle the current 5th district as it is, and make it district entirely base in Jacksonville. Corrine Brown would have a very hard time making it to the general let alone win one, her combative style would be a turn off to a lot of the white voters in the district, despite the district having a plurality of black voters, and put this Democratic leaning in to play. Someone in the mold of the current Mayor of Jacksonville Alvin Brown can win here, and hold this district down.
FL-06: Ron DeSantis (R–Ponte Vedra Beach)
DeSantis would get a more competitive district, but one that leans Republican, compared to the current 6th Putnam county is taken out of the district, and it also loses part of Saint Johns County. By my estimates this is a district where Obama lost by maybe somewhere between 4 -5 points, compared to '08 where he lost the district by a full 1 point.
John Mica will see a district the voted for Obama on both occasions. His Seminole County centered district also take in Dem leaning precincts in Volusia County and Orange. Mica and Webster would get the shaft the hardest of a dismantled 5th congressional district, and their district go from districts that voted for McCain in '08, to district that voted for Obama in '12 and '08 under new lines. Although the new 7th is a Dem leaning district, it still one that Mica can hold, due to his tenure, and his well regarded constituent service. But in a open seat situation, Dems should be in the drivers seat in gaining this district. We don't have a great bench in Seminole county, but even Mica himself doesn't live in Seminole County, but rather in Winter Park. In Orange County right on the county line. If this seat was open, I would expect someone like state Rep. Karen Castor-Dentel to run here.
Likely GOP. Lean Dem in open seat.
FL-08: Bill Posey (R–Rockledge)
Nothing changes in the 8th district. Brevard and Indian River County leans significantly Republican. Posey should continue to win here.
FL-09: Alan Grayson (D–Orlando)
Alan Grayson's district doesn't change that much, except that it will lose some precincts in Orange County for the 7th, to compensate for the continued growth in Osceola County. The only thing Grayson should worry about since this is a heavily Puerto Rican district, is if some local official decides to get in a primary, feeling that a Hispanic should represent the district since that's why the 9th was created for. But otherwise this is a super-duper safe Dem seat.
FL-10: Dan Webster (R-Winter Garden)
Webster would be the biggest loser in a court drawn map, as his district would be one that voted for Obama with almost 60 percent of the vote. There is no way he would survive in a general. This district would take in all of the black majority precincts in Orange County. Expect his 2012 opponent Val Demings to ditch the idea of running to be county mayor, and take another shot at Webster. Where she would be heavily favored, unlike last year
This is another safe GOP district that would not change the partisan makeup under a fair map. Only difference to this district compared to the current one, is that it's another district that has to change it's configurations due to the 5th being dismantled, and the 3rd district taking in all of Marion County. To compensate for that, the new 11th would take in nearly all of Levy County for the lost of Marion, and extend much further more into Lake County taking in the northern parts, as well as the east portion of Pasco County.
FL-12: Gus Bilirakis (R–Palm Harbor)
Bilirakis district loses the eastern part of Pasco, due to the changes in North Florida, to the 5th being dismantled, in which the eastern part of Pasco it taken away by the 11th. The new 12th will dip further into Pinellas County, and take up more northern area of Hillsborough County. This is still a Republican leaning district, and likely to remain one.
Pinellas County has been going through demographical changes just like Florida, and certain states in the South as a whole. This county is known to be the birth place of the Republican Party in Florida. This seat recently vacated by the death of the late Bill Young, who was able to hold for 4 plus decade, was home to mostly retirees, but now Pinellas County have seen a huge influx of young people. As mention earlier in the diary, Florida Republicans have known this and for years, instead of uniting all of Pinellas, they omitted heavily Democratic and black Downtown St. Petersburg, and put into Rep. Castor's Tampa district. In a real fair map, especially one drawn by the court, this district will contain all of Pinellas County as it should. President Obama got 51 and 50 percent of the vote here in '08 and '12. In the new 13th he would have gotten 56 percent. Alex Sink is likely to win in the special election this upcoming March. I highly expect her to be running in a all Pinellas district later in November.
FL-14: Kathy Castor (D-Tampa)
With Downtown St. Pete taken out of her district, as a result Castor will take in some of Tampa's Democratic leaning suburbs such as Temple Terrance, Thonotosassa, and Mango. Her district is still a very safe Democratic district, in one where the President received more than 60 percent of the vote.
FL-15: Dennis A. Ross (R–Lakeland)
Ross' district still remains a safe one for him, he'll take in all of the north portions of Polk County, which was in Webster's district. Other than that it's a relatively safe GOP district.
Vern Buchanan had a closer re-election last year than expected due to his ethics issue. His district would barely change at all only that all of Manatee County will be included.
FL-17: Tom Rooney (R–Okeechobee)
Another safe GOP district, in where Rooney left from the current 18th district last year, because it got significantly less Republican, and decided to move into this district which composes all of the interior counties in the southern portion of the state. It also takes in a little more of Polk County compared to the current 17th.
FL-19: Trey Radel (R–Fort Myers) Radel's problem is whether he can make to the general election, admit his recent known drug habits. This is a another safe GOP district. Even if Radel is the Republican in the general.
Palm Beach & Broward
FL-20: Alcee Hastings (D–Miramar) Hastings doesn't even live in this district, as his residency is stated to be in Miramar. Which is in Rep. Frederica Wilson's district. Nonetheless under Florida law, you don't to live a congressional district in order to run in one, but it helps if you live near it. Under the current 20th lines that district population is 53 percent black, 21 percent Hispanic, and 40 white. After the unpacking of blacks precincts, this will be district where a plurality of the voters are African-American, and where this will still be a majority-minority district, where blacks and Hispanics would make 2/3 of the majority. Blacks would make up 42 percent, Hispanics at 20 percent, and whites at 32 percent.
FL-21: Ted Deutch (D–Boca Raton) Ted Deutch's district barely changes at all. As I would not expect it to be dramatically changed under a court drawn map. The only violation where Florida Republicans committed while drawing the districts in this part of the state, was the needless packing of blacks in Hastings' district. As mention the unpacking African-American precincts in Palm Beach would go to Murphy and Frankel. I would expect Deutch's district not to be dramatically touched, if at all.
FL-22: Lois Frankel (D- West Palm Beach) Frankel's district changes slightly by taking in majority black Boyton Beach which is currently in Hastings' district, and also take in more of WPB, her current residence, where she was mayor during the last decade. But she also loses some of Fort Lauderdale to Hastings, due to taking in more black precincts in Palm Beach. This district is still a safe Democratic one, as Obama's performance should mirror exactly what he got.
FL-24: Frederic Wilson (D-Miami) Wilson who is also known for her impeccable styles senses when it comes to hats, her district stays pretty much the same.
FL-25 Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) MDB doesn't see that much changes compared to his current district. What should be noted here though is the vast voting shifts that has been going on in South Florida. In 2008, Obama lost the 25th under the current lines by 11 points, in 2012 he lost it by 2. That right there shows all you need know about Cuban vote in Florida. As most all of the old hardliner Cuban are literally dying off, while the younger Cuban voters are either Democrat voters, or independent voters who lean Democratic. All three of the Hispanic districts in South Florida are now non-Cuban Hispanic, since most of the Hispanic growth in that part of the state are coming from other Latin countries, along with the Puerto Rican growth in Orlando and Kissemmee. That bodes horribly for Florida and National Republicans. Diaz-Balart should continue to win here in his Hialeah based district, but this goes to show you the voting and demographic shift in South Florida. He won un-opposed last year.
FL-26: Joe Garcia (D-Miami) Garcia district get slightly even more Democratic with the inclusion of all of Homestead, where state Republicans intentionally split the city of 60,000 plus people. Other than that there's very little changes to the district, where Obama got 53 of the vote here last year. Garcia has branded himself in this the district really well, as I fully expect him to win next year, and many more years if he so chooses to run, as this district is likely to be more Democratic and significantly out of reach for Republicans, in which most of the communities in this SW Miami-Dade district either lean or are trending Dem.
FL-27 Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R–Miami) Ros-Lehtinen's district is another district like the 26th which also voted for the President by 53 percent. The only changes I made was the inclusion of some the Dem Hispanic districts north of the Miami River in the neighborhood of Allapattah. Because she has entrenched herself so long in the community for the last 24 years, and is an institution in Miami, it will be near impossible to knock her off, regardless of the demographical changes. She has cross over appeals, in where a lot of Democrats will vote for her, even as they vote Democratic for other offices. But in an event of an open seat, this is a seat where Democrats can and in my opinion should pickup. IRL is still pretty young for House standards where she is 61, and I wouldn't expect her to go anywhere anytime soon. But hypothetically speaking if she where to retire in the next couple of years, the one Democrat who I think could win this is IRL's 2008 opponent. Annette Taddeo. Taddeo is currently the chairman of the Democratic Party in Dade County, and the vice chair of the state party. Taddeo gave Ros-Lehtinen her lowest margin of victory by 16 points, since her initial election in 1989. I think she would be an ideal candidate to run in an event of an open seat.
Safe GOP. Toss-up in open seat.
So in conclusion next year even under current lines, I have us winning FL-13 and FL-02 with Alex Sink and Gwen Graham while losing zero seats, where I believe Patrick Murphy and Joe Garcia are in decent shapes for re-election. Keep in mine there's a big gubernatorial election in Florida next year, where Charlie Crist will most likely beat Rick Scott. A Crist win will be beneficial to all four that I just mentioned. In a court drawn map which I predict is highly likely, since following the case all year long, Democrats would gain FL-10. There's no way around it for Webster, in a fair map, especially one drawn up by the court, there's no way FL-10 would be a Republican leaning district, it would lean heavily Democratic, and I could see us gaining FL-07 and 27 if those seats become open. But given Mica's and Ros-Lehtinen's entrenchment and constituent services, it will be hard to knock them off. So overall I see us winning up to 3 districts next year, bringing the state's delegation total to 14R and 13D. Which is where a state in the middle like Florida is should be.