Drafts put new Congressional district in Central Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s new 28th U.S. House district would be planted in Central Florida, west of the Osceola County and Polk County line, under initial redistricting proposals rolled out Wednesday by Senate staff members.

Otherwise, most of the draft maps included few drastic changes from current congressional and state Senate districts.

Senate staff members released four proposed congressional maps and four proposed Senate maps that will go before redistricting subcommittees next week. The once-a-decade redrawing of district boundaries will be a major issue during the 2022 legislative session, which starts in January, with new maps in place for next year’s elections.

“In drawing draft maps for the select subcommittees to review, staff did not consult with any person other than counsel,” Reapportionment Committee Staff Director Jay Ferrin wrote in a memo to senators with the release of the maps on Wednesday.

As in the redistricting process a decade ago, the Senate did not release proposed state House districts. 

The House is working separately on its own map proposals.

The initial Senate proposals would accommodate the new Central Florida district by condensing districts to the east around Orlando and to the west in the Tampa region. However, they don’t appear to vastly alter two districts — District 7 held by Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy and District 13 held by Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist — that have received the most attention from pundits as potential targets for the Republican-dominated Legislature to help flip U.S. House seats.

In at least two of the draft maps, the new lines would appear to retain the voter makeup that saw President Joe Biden edge out former President Donald Trump in both districts.

The District 13 seat will be open because Crist is running for governor in 2022, a move some attributed to the national GOP targeting the seat.

In 2020, Trump won 15 of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Under the draft proposals, it appears the Trump win total would have been 16.

Florida is gaining a 28th U.S. House seat because of population growth over the past decade.

“These maps shore up #FL27 Rep. Maria Salazar (R), but otherwise are barely gerrymanders,” tweeted Dave Wasserman. U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report. “By my count these maps break down 16-12 Trump-Biden, vs. 15-12 today. Is this a head fake?”

Wasserman added that the Murphy and Crist seats remain in Biden territory, before adding, “I’d be very surprised if Tallahassee Rs settle for this.” 

Salazar in 2020 unseated former U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., in Miami-Dade County.

Florida’s congressional delegation is currently made up of 16 Republicans and 10 Democrats, with one open seat in a heavily Democratic South Florida district. Before the draft maps were released, Wasserman expected the numbers to skew to 19 GOP-leaning districts.

Current congressional lines were drawn after the Florida Supreme Court threw out the Legislature’s first attempt in 2012. That decision stemmed from violations of the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” constitutional amendment voters approved in 2010.

Ferrin wrote that the proposed lines followed federal and state laws, including the Fair Districts requirements.

“Districts were drawn without the use of any residence information of any sitting member of the Florida Legislature or Congress and without regard to the preservation of existing district boundaries,” Ferrin wrote.

On Tuesday, in advance of the release of the drafts, Senate leaders urged lawmakers not to discuss how the maps could affect their political fortunes.

A day earlier, Senate Reapportionment Chairman Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, asked lawmakers to be respectful of the proposals and mindful of analysis provided by organizations “whose goals could be motivated by improper partisan intent.”

Currently, the Senate is composed of 24 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

House Democrats issued a statement Wednesday reiterating their desire for an open redistricting process.

“I’m glad to finally see some maps. Hopefully, the House follows suit soon and we can get to work,” Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Boca Raton Democrat who is the party’s ranking member on the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee, said in a statement.

For another look at the proposed maps, see this story from Florida Politics by clicking here.

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