A new map will drive decisions for Southwest Florida lawmakers
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Southwest Florida
Which lawmakers have already made clear they will seek re-election?

With House boundaries all but set, a number of lawmakers representing Southwest Florida now have to decide if — and where — to run under the new cartography.

Rep. Spencer Roach hasn’t decided quite yet if he’s going to run, but said it won’t be maps that make his choice.

“I am still evaluating whether to seek a third term in the Florida House and anticipate making that decision before the end of the Legislative Session,” the North Fort Myers Republican said. “The redistricting process will not factor in my decision; if I run, I will run in the district where I live, which is House District 76 under the proposed maps.”

Still, whatever triggers a final decision for Roach, it’s likely the map just passed by the Legislature (H 8013) will give him pause. A partisan performance analysis by MCI Maps shows HD 76 remains a Republican seat, where Republican Donald Trump won a whopping 64.96% of the vote in the 2020 presidential election. But while the existing House District 79 that Roach has represented in his first two terms is contained entirely within Lee County under the current map, the new map gives away Lehigh Acres to neighboring House District 77 and pulls in about half of Charlotte County, where Roach has never campaigned before.

He’s not the only one faced with a choice. Rep. Tommy Gregory, a Sarasota Republican, already made clear he will run where he lives, in proposed House District 74. “There’s a 0% chance I am moving,” he told Florida Politics. “There’s a 100% chance I am running.”

That’s despite much of the district actually coming from a district represented by Rep. James Buchanan, a Venice Republican who early on during redistricting indicated he plans to run in the new HD 74 as well. Buchanan hasn’t addressed maps since they were passed in the House and did not respond to a request for comment Monday from Florida Politics.

Plenty of other lawmakers did. For many, they land in a district analogous to one they now represent, making the choice easier.

Rep. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican, will run again in House District 71, which largely overlaps with his current district of the same number. “I want to keep Florida moving forward,” he said. “We have faced tough times in the last couple of years, but I’m proud of the work we have done.”

Rep. Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican, confirmed he will run in the new House District 81, a more coastal and compact district than the one he serves now.

Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican, lives in proposed House District 73 and will run there, she said. That’s now a Republican-leaning district — but barely. About 49.7% of voters there backed Trump while 49.34% picked Democrat Joe Biden for President.

Rep. Mike Giallombardo, a Cape Coral Republican, will run in the new House District 79, all of which comes from his existing House District 77 sans a single barrier island.

And Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, a Fort Myers Republican, will run in House District 78, the same number district she represents now, but with much of its eastern turf lobbed off thanks to Fort Myers population growth.

Reps. Lauren Melo and Adam Botana, Republicans from Naples and Bonita Springs, respectively, did not respond to a query. But they have filed for re-election and live in districts in the new map that largely cover areas where they have run before. The same goes for Rep. Mike Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican, who has a district in which to run that covers less geographic space but still has a large Charlotte County base.

The big questions may come in open seats that, thanks to the redraw, have no incumbents at all. The HD 77 seat, containing Lehigh Acres, has no incumbent. Neither does a new east Manatee seat, House District 72, or a north Manatee seat, House District 70, that also crosses into Tampa Bay with a section of east Hillsborough County.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Cherry Wood

    February 8, 2022 at 12:53 am

    Voting in this County (Alachua) really is inane. So far, I have lived in two cities: High Springs and Gainesville, but was not considered in City limits so I couldn’t vote in the local elections! I know 100s of people right here that are upset they cannot vote. Maybe Florida should change to voting by county lines or do something about this issue, as this is already a “rigged”election in two ways: This problem with the city and county lines, and the fact that Independents cannot vote in the present elections at all. How unconstitutional and unpatriotic Florida. We want to vote, please make it possible somehow!!!

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