Sen. Bobby Powell knew he probably wouldn’t like much of the redistricting plan from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office. But the more he looked at the draft map (P 0079), the more he fell into disbelief.
“I don’t really think the map matches the ethnic and racial diversity for the state of Florida,” Powell said.
The West Palm Beach Democrat chairs the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. While he said the caucus has yet to formally vote on a position on redistricting maps, he vehemently opposes consideration of the Governor’s map, and he has heard from a majority of caucus members who do as well.
The map, submitted Sunday evening by Governor’s Office General Counsel Ryan Newman, eliminates a congressional district spanning North Florida from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. The Florida Senate and House cartographers have acknowledged that district is a minority access district, and it appears in some form on all legislative drafts published so far. U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who represents the district now, issued a lengthy statement slamming the Newman map.
Powell plans to offer any resistance required from within the Legislature. He praised Lawson as an effective lawmaker and a voice for minority communities throughout a long legislative career. But the Senator also stressed the issue transcends the performance of any particular Congressman.
“It’s not about that particular person but about ethnic minorities in general,” he said. “We are talking about 10 years of change. And as people of color, we need representation. This is about who could potentially be representing that district in the future.”
Most analysts believe the Governor’s map cuts Black districts in Florida from four under the current political boundaries to two under his proposal. In addition to Lawson’s district, the map effectively combines parts of two Orlando area districts represented by Democratic U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy, who are Black and Asian American, respectively. The proposal also dramatically redraws a South Florida district represented by newly elected U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Broward Democrat.
Of note, it’s unclear what impacts the Governor’s proposal could have on the process at all. It’s highly unusual, if not unprecedented in Florida, for a Governor to offer a map. But unlike legislative redistricting products, DeSantis does have veto power over any congressional map before it goes into effect for the 2022 election cycle.
The Florida Senate expects on Wednesday to discuss a congressional map (S 8040) produced by the Senate Reapportionment Committee.