Joe Henderson: The maps are done, let the lawsuits begin
Get out your popcorn, the main event is about to begin.

Now that the congressional maps were approved, the battle will continue in court.

We should have known better than to think harmony could last after the Legislature’s initial congressional maps drew rare praise from both sides of the aisle.

Even Democrats agreed they were fair and stuck to the spirit of the 2010 amendment that required lawmakers to produce fair districts.

But after Gov. Ron DeSantis followed through on his vow to veto the maps, we now have a hot mess that leaves only one certain thing: Many lawyers are going to get rich fighting this out in court. Republicans already put $1 million into the map bill to cover legal expenses.

They probably should plan on digging a little deeper.

Republicans now figure to win 20 of Florida’s 28 U.S. House seats. Florida is trending red, of course, but not that red. Let the lawsuits begin. Even so, it’s unlikely any of this will be settled before the November elections.

Residents of the Tampa Bay area can forget whatever they thought they knew about their Representatives in Congress.

That’s the takeaway after looking at the maps approved Thursday in a Special Session by the Legislature.

Start with the fact that the map divides St. Petersburg in half, and that basically ensures Democrat Kathy Castor retains her seat in Congress. District 14, which Castor represents, has long been reliably blue.

Well, it just got bluer.

The district now includes South Tampa, Town ‘n Country and other parts of Hillsborough County. But now it adds eastern and downtown St. Pete, which should make it a cakewalk for Castor.

But at what cost?

District 13, which Charlie Crist represents, now looks ripe for the taking by Republicans. It’s Christmas morning for Republicans Kevin Hayslett, Anna Paulina Luna and Amanda Makki, as the new map packs more blue neighborhoods from the old configuration into Castor’s district.

Can you say gerrymander?

It’s a nightmare scenario for Democrats Ben Diamond, Eric Lynn and Michele Rayner-Goolsby. Their campaigns now face a steep climb.

Diamond was to become the Florida House Minority Leader for the 2022-24 term but gave that up after Crist announced his run for Governor. At the time, the district split was close but seemed to favor Democrats.

Not anymore.

The website FiveThirtyEight projects it now leans for Republicans by 12 percentage points.

This race figured to attract national attention, with big money flowing in from all directions. Democrats, with little margin for error if they hope to keep control of the U.S. House, now may have some tough decisions as November approaches.

If District 13 is as red as it seems, will the national party continue to target this race or redirect resources to more competitive areas?

Republicans will certainly win the newly formed District 18, most likely with Scott Franklin running there. Franklin currently represents District 15, but former Rep. Dennis Ross is coming out of retirement to run there.

Do you see a trend here in this game of musical chairs?

As you float around the state, running against Republicans looks like a suicide mission in many places.

It was big news when Democrat and pragmatist Stephanie Murphy announced she wouldn’t run for another term in District 7. The new district gives Republicans a 14-point edge.

And, of course, there’s Democrat Al Lawson, who just got kneecapped. We knew that was coming because DeSantis targeted Lawson’s district. In the old configuration, it ran along a narrow corridor from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, designed to give minority voters the chance to elect a Black Representative.

Lawson, now stuck in a deep red district, seems to have little chance of keeping his seat. Lawson complained that the Governor’s move “clearly violates the Voting Rights Act as well as the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.”

Maybe so, but it also seems clear that DeSantis is itching for a court fight on this one.

We are not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that divvies up people based on the color of their skin,” he said. “There has never been a district of that length and that shape that has been justifiable under the federal Constitution.”

If DeSantis wants to gut the Voting Rights Act — and he does — this district could be the case that makes it or breaks it for the Governor.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Majority rule

    April 22, 2022 at 7:51 am

    DeSantis is right with his maps and the left is wrong because the liberal Biden administration cheated Florida out of the numbers of Congress members it rightly should have. Our growth should have resulted in TWO new Congressional seats in Florida, yet the liberal Biden administration allowed only one, (while it did just the reverse to preserve Democratic control of the New York delegation.) DeSantis is doing his best to see that Florida has a fair Congressional delegation with districts that meet the requirement for geographic conformity. But the always-whining, judge-shopping left will do all it can to preserve its grasp on power, at the expense of the will of the majority of Floridians.

    • Keep the train going

      April 22, 2022 at 9:21 am

      Your growth is gonna get even more reversed as COVID does it thing lol

      • Comment

        April 22, 2022 at 10:30 am

        Every body is fair and good not race related fair America

        • And beyond

          April 22, 2022 at 11:52 am

          I hope they sue florida into litigation hell lol

  • Comment

    April 22, 2022 at 10:31 am

    You are now a number not a race

  • Tired of the nonsense

    April 22, 2022 at 11:41 am

    “Can you say gerrymander” lol. What a joke you guys are. Pathetic. It’s “gerrymandering” when map lines don’t favor liberals, but when they do unfairly favor liberals it’s “democracy”. You’re all frauds and the entire state sees it. Desantis was 100% right and the old maps were clearly gerrymandered and unreasonably favored democrats instead of the people.

    I know COUNTLESS voters, myself included, who have felt for decades that the congressional maps do not represent us. Absurdly shaped maps that stretched across massive areas of land, just to be able to pick up corners of urban areas and swing the entire district to the left. It’s coming sense. You had farmers and ranchers governed by inner city voters, just because a few blocks of an urban area get thrown in. The will of the rest of the district became irrelevant. It’s absolutely shameful.

    I’m proud of my governor and support this map in full. You cry babies whining about it are now irrelevant. Everyone recognizes your bias.

    • Get here faster

      April 22, 2022 at 11:51 am

      “I know countless voters”

      And they are becoming few and fewer as covid goes on. Your ways are dying as fast as your culture is lol

Comments are closed.


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