If anyone wondered whether forces in the Florida Legislature would try and create an aggressive Republican map, there’s now an answer. One of the draft proposals from the Florida House would likely reduce the Democrats in Florida’s congressional delegation by at least one.
But whether the political will exists to push forward with a plan in the face of Florida’s Fair Districts constitutional amendment and a much more restrained approach in the Florida Senate remains to be seen.
The House on Monday released two draft maps for Florida’s now 28 congressional districts, publishing data moments after a Senate subcommittee started a workshop on a second round of congressional maps. There were also two maps released for Florida’s 120 state House districts, the first such cartography produced by the Legislature this year.
“As Speaker Sprowls and I have made abundantly clear, the House strongly discourages Members from having planned or unplanned conversations about redistricting with individuals who have a vested interest in the outcomes of the redistricting process,” wrote Rep. Tom Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican chairing House redistricting efforts.
But the inclusion of one map has some political observers already wondering if the draft could appease those forces who want the GOP-dominated House to push the limits on increasing Republican representation.
According to a snap analysis by MCI Maps, the aggressive map would divide Florida into 18 congressional districts that voted for Republican Donald Trump for President last year and just 10 that voted for Democrat Joe Biden. Trump won Florida by 3 percentage points.
“I really wonder if this is a plan drafted by staff with members like (Anthony) Sabatini asking for an aggressive plan,” tweeted MCI Maps founder Matt Isbell, who has worked with the Florida Democratic Party.
Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, has filed to challenge U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat now representing Florida’s 7th Congressional District. But the aggressive map effectively redraws the 7th to include much of the existing 10th Congressional District, represented now by U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat running for Senate.
Murphy’s Winter Park lies is the proposed CD 7, while Sabatini’s Howey-in-the-Hills finds itself in an envisioned CD 10 that would be much more conservative politically. In fact, Isbell’s analysis shows nearly 58% of voters in that proposed CD 10 backed Trump over Biden. This doesn’t leave Murphy homeless by virtue of Demings’ higher ambitions, but cuts out a central Florida Democratic seat in favor of a Republican gain.
Curiously, the aggressive map largely leaves Florida’s 13th Congressional District, represented now by U.S. Rep. (and Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Charlie Crist, a Pinellas County-based Democratic seat.
Unlike Senate maps that number a new Florida’s 28th Congressional District in the center of the state, the House proposals renumber districts north to south.
There does appear to be a new seat in Central Florida, but unlike the Senate drafts, which largely cut up U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin’s jurisdiction between a Democratic seat in east Tampa and a Republican-leaning one in the Lakeland Republican’s home base further inland, the House’s aggressive plan imagines a more competitive seat that puts parts of north Pinellas and north Hillsborough together with much of Pasco County. That creates a new 15th Congressional District that leans, just barely, toward Trump. Franklin, meanwhile, finds himself in a friendly reimagined 16th Congressional District.
The districts flipped red in 2020 by U.S. Reps. Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar, both Miami Republicans, become a little safer for the GOP under the aggressive House map. That’s not overly different from Senate proposals.
The total effect is that the map, presuming Republicans behaved exactly as they did when voting for President, would generate a two-seat pickup for Republicans in 2022 while the Democrats suffer the loss of one seat. That’s significant as Democrats currently enjoy just an eight-seat majority in the House (a number that doesn’t count one vacant seat, a heavily Democratic Florida district most recently represented by the late Alcee Hastings of Fort Lauderdale).
Of note, the aggressive map is one of two published from the House, and the other appears more restrained. It leaves 11 Biden-favoring seats, according to MCI Maps. That’s a number equal to Democrats’ current congressional representation in Florida. This map would leave Murphy’s CD 7 separate from Demings’ CD 10, with the former a 53% Biden district and Demings’ district, already home to a feisty Democratic Primary for her successor, a 62% Biden district.
The one new district on the restrained House map does appear to be a Trump-favoring jurisdiction, arguably the west coast re-envisioned 15th Congressional District that’s made up of areas now represented by U.S. Reps. Dan Webster, a Clermont Republican in the existing 11th Congressional District, and Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican now serving Florida’s 12th Congressional District. The two incumbents end up in safe terrain, as does Franklin, while the new CD 15 appears a place Trump would have won with 58% of the vote.
This map, numbered first in proposals, remains a slightly more friendly one to national Republicans, but doesn’t vary greatly from the existing one, drawn by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015 after it determined lawmakers failed to abide by the Fair Districts amendment.
But outside experts are chomping at the bit to run both proposals through software and judge the fairness of the plans.
The watchdog group RepresentUS, in partnership with Princeton Gerrymandering Project, gave failing grades to both House maps.
“What the Florida House has done is exactly the opposite of what voters want and goes against the will of Floridians who have called for Fair Districts as enshrined in the Florida Constitution,” said Joe Kabourek, senior Campaign Director.
“Poll after poll, including in Florida, show that Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters agree that gerrymandering is a major problem that undermines the integrity of our elections. In contrast to the approach taken by their counterparts in the Florida Senate, the Florida House maps clearly will not pass constitutional muster and undermines the voice of millions of Floridians who expect their legislators to adopt fair voting maps and improve transparency in the electoral process.”
The group gave Senate drafts a C.