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Tuesday
Dec062011

Congressional Redistricting, Take Two. The Florida House weighs in.

Last week, the Florida Senate unveiled its first run at a Congressional map, as well as a proposed State Senate plan, and today, the Florida House joined suit, though in quite an unconventional way---by laying out seven different Congressional proposals and five different State House proposals. 

Given the sheer amount of data and lines to pour through, and the fact that my redistricting studies are limited to the hours I am not replicating the Griswold outdoor Christmas in my front yard, this piece does not attempt to analyze every bit of every plan, but instead to hit the highlights of the places that I think are interesting.

The usual disclaimer goes here.  First, this still very early in the process, and given the unusual strategy of releasing seven plans, the House really hasn't even gotten to the starting gate.  At some point, the House will have one map, then will have to negotiate the differences with the Senate, some of which are significant.  Then we go to the courts, with new rules.  And don't forget the Justice Department review.  In other words, I wouldn't be making my final political plans based on trying to figure out which of the seven plans is actually the plan.  In other words, take all of this with a grain of salt.

With that, here goes:

At the start, the map clearly sets out to preserve the seats held by Congresswoman Brown and Wilson, and Congressman Hastings.  The district numbers are different, but the districts really aren't.  And just like the Senate proposal, most of the House proposals have a Hispanic (in this case Puerto Rican) heavy Central Florida seat.  There are also three Hispanic majority seats in South Florida. 

Also, roughly a dozen seat are virtually (if not actually) identical across each of the seven House plans, with another five that have only modest differences.  The rest of the map has some pretty significant differences across the seven versions, so just like the last blog, I will try to tackle the interesting story lines, going from North to South.  And since the numbers in the House map are quite different than the current district lines, I will tackle them by incumbent.

Southerland (current CD 2.  New CD 2):  The seven House maps and Senate proposal appear to be identical.  The high points:  the new district eliminates the coastal tail through Walton and Okaloosa Counties, and unifies Leon.  The result, a district that is about 3-4 points more competitive for Democrats.  A lean GOP seat, but definitely competitive.

Mica (current CD 7.  New CD 6): This is home for me, so a district that I tend to look at more closely than others.  As I mentioned in the last piece, given the current geographic proximity of Mica, Webster (CD 8) and Adams (CD 24), it was inevitable that if the legislature wanted to draw a legally compliant map, that someone was going to get a district that was far from home.  The man in the Senate map without a eastern Orange County chair was John Mica, though that Senate map took care of him pretty well.  The House?  Well, depending on the version, he could have a real race.  The majority of the proposals place the northern end of St. Johns County---some of the most Republican voters in the state, into the new Duval-based Crenshaw seat.  When they do that, they create a district that is 50:50, or maybe even a touch better for Democrats.  A likely GOP seat could on paper, become a toss-up.

Webster (old CD 8.  New CD ?):  The Senate Congressional map placed Rep. Webster in a mostly Western Orange/Eastern Polk/Southern Lake district, with a tail to eastern Orange County to essentially make it a Webster seat---though one that was pretty darn competitive.  Under the House maps, there are a number of variations on the same theme, with one general exception-- no cross-county tail to pick up areas close to Webster's house.  The good news for Webster:  the district will be more Republican.  The bad news:  it may be more Republican---for another Republican.  When the music stops, he could be looking for a chair.

Adams (old CD 24.  New CD 9):  While various proposals have slightly different lines, the foundation is the same on all of them:  they are all more Hispanic and more African-American than her current district, and given the demographic trends there, probably will only continue to get more so over the next few years.  Like Mica's seat, the new configurations are generally 50:50, maybe even a bit better, making the district 2-3 points more Democratic than today.  If there is a surprise loser in this process, it could be her.

Young (Old CD 10.  New CD 13) and Castor (Old CD 11.  New CD 14).  Like the last blog, I am tackling these two together, given that it is hard to make Young more Democratic without making Castor more Republican.  While there are slight differences from the Senate (one that impacts the next person in this blog), the result is the same:  the House versions give Castor a safe Democratic seat, and give the Democrats a better than 50:50 district when Young eventually decides to retire. 

Buchanan.  (Old CD 13.  New CD 16).  This one is new to the list.  In the Senate plan, Castor maintains a tail of her district into Manatee County, picking up a few African-American precincts in Manatee County.  The House versions do not do this, keeping Bradenton whole and as such, helping the district a point or two for the Democrats.  In full disclosure, the Democratic candidate in this race, Keith Fitzgerald, is a good friend and I am rooting for him.  And under the House proposals, he is in a district, that while still leaning a little Republican, does so less under these plans than it did when in the previous elections. 

Brief interlude-  The districts below are all identical across all seven House proposals.  Therefore, we can assume this is the current House proposal. 

Rooney.  (Old CD 16.  New CD 18).   The Rooney seat in the House proposal is virtually identical, if not actually identical to the Senate proposal.  By cutting off the western portion of the district, Rooney moves from a lean GOP seat to a toss-up one, and one that apparently looks (for good reason) more appealing to Allen West than the seat West currently represents.   Given all these dynamics, if I was a strong Democrat in this part of Florida, I would be spending some serious time looking at this seat.

West (Old CD 22.  New CD 22).  On the upside for West, if he wins re-election in this seat, he is one of the few members that won't need new stationary given that the district numbr doesn't change.  On the downside, the scenario of him winning re-election is highly unlikely.  Swing districts usually aren't represented by firebrands (see Alan Grayson 2010), and given his rhetoric, was likely to struggle anyways in a center-left leaning swing district even if it didn't change.  Using the great tool at Dave's Redistricting, it looks as though the House map puts West in a district that is 4-5 points more Obama than the old seat- roughly 57% for the President.   And the Senate map is almost exactly (if not exactly) the same. 

Rivera (Old CD 25.  New CD 26).   The seat that David Rivera currently represents runs from east to west, picking up large portions of GOP Collier County.  The new district doesn't (Mario Diaz-Balart is the beneficiary).  The result:  a truly 50:50 district, which includes the more liberal Keys.  The House and Senate maps in South Florida are pretty different, but regardless, it looks as though Rivera will end up as the member with a real fight on his hands.

So what does all this mean?  Depending on the version, the Democrats should gain to seats based on the House proposals, with another 2-3 true toss-ups, and 2-3 more that are definitely competitive.  But as was mentioned above, we are very early in the play, and there are certainly many twists and turns ahead. 

 

 

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