The Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) feels great about a new congressional map passed by the Legislature.
“Of course, I want to maximize the number of Republican seats,” said Joe Gruters, RPOF Chair.
That’s a notable assessment considering Gruters also serves as a Florida Senator and cast one of the 24 votes to pass the map in the Senate. But he stresses he played no role in the crafting of the map, either in his capacity as a lawmaker or his efforts for the party.
The map (P 0109) was submitted by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Deputy Chief of Staff, Alex Kelly. That came in after DeSantis vetoed maps crafted and approved by the Legislature. DeSantis called lawmakers back to Tallahassee for a Special Session to approve new drawings.
The map from DeSantis’ Office, which passed the Legislature on Thursday and awaits his signature, was supported on a party-line vote. Performance analyses by MCI Maps show the plan creates 20 districts where voters favored Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election and eight where they preferred Democrat Joe Biden. Trump won the state by three percentage points.
Notably, Gruters also supported the maps produced by the Legislature. He voted for one map that only was voted on in the Senate (S 8060), which had 16 Trump seats and 12 Biden seats, and another primary map approved by the full Legislature (H 8019) that had 18 Trump districts and 10 Biden seats.
But of note, Gruters only ever cast votes when cartography made its way to the Senate floor. He did not serve on the Senate Reapportionment Committee or either of its subcommittees. And he had no involvement in any discussions with staff, lawmakers or the Governor’s Office, he said.
“I didn’t participate at all in the process from that standpoint, other than one or two conversations with Ray Rodrigues (Chair of the Senate Reapportionment Committee) about the Sarasota area,” he said. “Politics was never anywhere near the maps that passed. And for Ray Rodrigues, I know that was a goal, that we pass maps that pass a constitutionality test and to make sure these wouldn’t be litigated and tossed out.”
Florida voters in 2010 passed a Fair Districts amendment that forbids the Legislature from drawing maps that favor or disfavor a political party or candidate.
Gruters maintains every map passed by the Governor follows the law, including the one just passed.
“I’m confident those will be the maps for the next 10 years,” he said.
While he based his votes on whether maps complied with the law, Gruters himself — when he puts his partisan hat on — says he definitely has a favorite map. “I do like the map better as a party Chairman,” he said.