Redistricting in Florida: Part Two

Northern Florida contains seven districts: the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 24th.  The 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th are currently held by Republicans and all but the 3rd are over the ideal population for a district. 

  

Florida's 3rd-8th Congressional Districts
Congresswoman Corrine Brown

The 3rd lies in the center of the area. It was drawn in 1992 to be North Florida’s black-majority seat and Democrats were been shifted from the surrounding districts to make the surrounding districts more Republican. It currently stretches from Jacksonville’s downtown in the north to Orlando’s in the south, and stretches east andwest to include other largely minority and Democratic areas such as Gainesville, Sanford and Eatonville. As a result of thisgerrymandering, the district is strongly Democratic with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D +18 and gave Obama 73% of its vote in the 2008 election. It is 50.9% black and 35.4% white. The 3rd District’s incumbent is Democrat Corrine Brown who has been in office since 1992. Liberal on most issues, Brown is outspoken, a trait which has gotten her into controversy in the past, but she has run unopposed in the last three elections. Although she currently has six challengers for the 2010 election, she has no primary competition as yet. The 3rd district is currently the most underpopulated district in Northern Florida, with about 40,000 people less than the ideal size. The 3rd District is at the center of the debate over the potential impact of the FairDistricts initiative. Due to its shape, the 3rd is one of several districts that violate restrictions in the initiative which require compact districts that conform to geographical and political boundaries. On the other hand, the 3rd District is protected by the Voting Rights Act and a non-compact shape may be necessary to ensure it remains an effective African-American seat. 

 

Congressman Ander Crenshaw

Florida’s 4th congressional district is in the northeast corner of the state and includes most of Jacksonville (except the African-American neighborhoods which are in the 3rd). It also includes the far less populous northern counties which run west to Tallahassee. Jacksonville in particular has a strong military presence with the Mayport Naval Station and the Naval Air Station. The 4th is solidly Republican with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R +17. It supported McCain with 62% of the vote in 2008 and Bush with 69% in 2004. Republican incumbent Ander Crenshaw has been in office since his 2000 election and has won fairly easily each year. An investment banker until 2000, Crenshaw is a solid conservative and member of the House Appropriations Committee. He currently has no general election opponent and only one primary opponent, Troy Stanley, whom he has outraised by over $230,000. The 4th should remain a Republican seat after the 2010 election. The district is currently just 14,000 over the ideal population The Republicans will likely continue their strategy of transferring more liberal areas to the 3rd. If necessary, given the solid conservative nature of the 4th District, some of its more Republican neighborhoods may move to strengthen weaker Republican districts nearby like the 2nd, 6th or 7th. 

  

Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite

Florida’s 5th is a quickly growing region north and east of St. Petersburg and Tampa. A favorite area of retirees, almost a quarter of its population is over sixty-five. Thirty-nine percent of residents receive Social Security, the highest of any district in the country. The majority of the population is inland in towns like Citrus Springs and Brooksville. The 5th leans to the right, thanks in part to the 2002 redistricting process. McCain won with 56% of the vote in 2008 and Bush won with 58% in 2004. The incumbent is Republican Ginny Brown-Waite, who was on the state Senate congressional redistricting committee in 2001 and helped to create the district that she won later that year with 48% of the vote, beating Democratic incumbent Karen Thurman. The election result that year highlight the importance of redistricting as Thurman won the old parts of the district 52%-43% and Brown-Waite won the new parts 53%-41%. Since then, she has won at least 60% of the vote. Brown-Waite has at least three Democratic opponents, however none has raised over $20,000. Representative Brown-Waite has raised close to $400,000. She appears safe for the 2010 elections. The 5th is the most populous congressional district in Florida. With over 880,000 residents, it is more than twenty-five percent over the ideal population level. About 180,000 people will need to be moved to another district. Out of the six districts that border the 5th, two – the 2nd and the 8th – are currently held by Democrats. The 8th in particular is a possible win for the Republicans in 2010 and they may try to further strengthen it by moving some conservative voters into it from the 5th. Similarly, the 2nd is generally conservative but represented by a Democrat. Again, Republicans may try to tilt the balance a little more in their favor by adding some conservative voters into that district. Due to its large population, the 5th is a district that will necessarily look very different after 2012. 

Congressman Cliff Stearns

The 6th congressional district is located just to the north of the 5th and stretches from Jacksonville in the north to Ocala, Lady Lake and Leesburg in the south. Between are lightly populated counties except for Gainesville, the home of the University of Florida. While virtually all of the very Democratic Alachua County is in the 6th, its most liberal precincts were put into the 3rd during the 2002 redistricting process. On the whole, the district is solidly Republican, giving John McCain 57% of its votes in the 2008 election. Incumbent Cliff Stearns has been in office since 1988, winning 61-39 over Democrat Tim Cunha in 2008. While Cunha is running again, Stearns seems to be safe this year, with almost $400,000 raised so far. Fundraising information is not available for Cunha. The 6th is currently the 5th most over-populated district in the state, at 12% over the ideal population. Republican legislators will likely continue their method of moving the more liberal voters into the already solidly liberal 3rd in order to strengthen their power in the 6th. As one of the more sprawling districts in the state, however, the 6th will probably see some major changes if the FairDistricts initiative is passed by the voters of Florida this November. 

  

Congressman John Mica

Florida’s 7th congressional district includes close to 100 miles of coast on the Atlantic Ocean, from Ponte Vedra Beach to Daytona Beach. Inland population centers include Deltona and the wealthy Seminole County suburbs outside of Orlando. The 7th leans conservative, with 53% voting for McCain in 2008. Republican John Mica has represented the 7th since 1992 and received 62% of the vote in 2008. He looks likely to hold onto his seat in the coming election as well, having raised over $440,000 to his next closest opponent’s $40,000. Like most of the other Republican districts in north Florida, the 7th is over-populated at more than 12% over the ideal population. As the 7th is not as strongly Republican as some of the other districts nearby, some of its liberal voters will probably be shuffled around, likely to the already Democratic 3rd. 

Congressman Alan Grayson

The 8th congressional district is likely to host one of the most competitive house races in the state in 2010. Home to Walt Disney World, the 8th includes parts of Orlando and Orange County in the south and Lake and Marion Counties in the north. While traditionally conservative, the 8th has become more liberal in recent years, as evidenced by its 52% support of Obama in 2008. Its Cook Partisan Voting Index is R+2. The 2002 redistricting changed the 8th district considerably, taking away much of Orange County and putting it in the newly created 24th. Republican Congressman Ric Keller held office from 2000 to 2008, when he lost  to Democrat Alan Grayson. Grayson won with fifty-two percent of the vote. In his short time in office, Grayson earned a reputation as an outspoken supporter of President Obama and as a harsh critic of Congressional Republicans’ approach to health care. National GOP party members hope to use this to portray Grayson as an extreme liberal who is out of touch with the fairly moderate district. While Grayson currently has no primary opponents, eight Republicans have entered the race. Grayson has them all beat in fundraising, however, with over $1.5 million raised so far. Grayson raised more in the last three months than any other candidate for the House in the entire country. In Grayson’s race, Republican Armando Gutierrez Jr. has raised the most with about $310,000. Grayson will have a tough race and many are predicting that Republicans will win back this seat, especially in light of the general unhappiness with the Democratic Party at this point. The 8th District is overpopulated by about 11% and Republican legislators will likely work hard to shed more liberal voters around Orlando in order to strengthen their position in the district. If the FairDistricts initiative passes, however, the 8th is likely to see big changes due to its current ‘wrap-around’ irregular shape. 

  

Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas

The 24th is one of two districts created in 2002 and designed specifically for a certain Republican politician, then-State Speaker of the House, Republican Tom Feeney. Like the 8th, the 24th will be an extremely competitive race in November. About half of the population lives around Orlando and the other half on the Atlantic coast, which includes the northern half of Brevard County and the southern half of Volusia County. The district leans slightly to the right, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R +4 and it voted for McCain by a 2% margin in 2008. While Feeney won in 2002 and held onto his seat during the next two elections, he lost to Democratic challenger Suzanne Kosmas in 2008 amid corruption allegations involving an international trip paid for by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Kosmas received 57% of the vote. She now, however, faces a host of opponents who view her as vulnerable because she is a freshman representative in a swing district. She has outraised everyone so far, with over $1 million dollars, but national Republicans are sure to pour money into the general election, seeing this as another good chance to gain a seat. The 24th is slightly overpopulated with about 8% more than the ideal population. In 2011, Republicans will likely try to strengthen themselves in this district by moving some of the more liberal precincts into the already Democratic 3rd. 

In conclusion, northern Florida hosts two of the most competitive 2010 races in the country. It also encompasses some of the most overpopulated districts in the state and a single district which has been specifically created to hold the liberal parts of the region, allowing the other districts to be more safely Republican. Together, these factors will make Northern Florida an interesting area to watch both in the 2010 election and the 2012 redistricting. It is also a potential place for the new district to be added, due to its large population. 

Tomorrow’s article will discuss the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 15th districts which comprise Central Florida. 

Pictures of Cliff Stearns and Ginny Brown-Waite courtesy of the House Republican Conference, picture of John Mica courtesy of BikePortland.org, and all other Congressional photos from that member’s official House site.

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