Redistricting in Florida: Part Three

Central Florida includes the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 15th districts. It is centered on Tampa and St. Petersburg in the west, though some districts stretch across inland Florida to the Space Coast along the Atlantic.

 

Florida's 9th-11th Congressional Districts

 

Congressman Gus Bilirakis

Florida’s 9th congressional district includes the area north of St. Petersburg and north and east of Tampa. It is also the home of Clearwater, the spiritual headquarters of the Church of Scientology. Strangely shaped, it runs along the Gulf Coast before circling inland around the 11th and then cutting into the 12th the south east. The 9th leans Republican, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R +6. Its incumbent, Republican Gus Bilirakis, was elected in 2006 when his father Michael Bilirakis, who had held the seat since 1982, decided not to run again. The incumbent has raised well over half a million dollars and looks well positioned to win his seat again in the 2010 election. Due to its odd shape, the 9th may face significant changes if the FairDistricts initiative passes. If Fair Districts does not pass, Republican legislators are expected to maintain this as a safe Republican seat. The 9th is only slightly over the ideal population level, with about 45,000 residents more than it should ideally have. Its more liberal areas may probably be moved into the slightly under-populated Democratic 11th district and some conservative precincts may move into the 10th.

Congressman Bill Young

The 10th congressional district is the only district in the state which is contained entirely within a single county: Pinellas County. It includes parts of St. Petersburg except for the most liberal (and primarily African American) parts in the south of the city which were moved into the already liberal 11th in 2002. It also includes island communities along the Gulf coast. The 10th is a swing district, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+1. It supported Obama by a four point margin in 2008. The incumbent is Republican Bill Young who has been in office since 1970, making him the longest serving current Republican member of Congress. Young’s victory margins have been growing gradually smaller, although he won 61% of the vote in 2008. While Young is the subject of many retirement rumors, he has said he will run in 2010. So far, however, he has been out-raised by Democratic challenger Charlie Justice, who has raised over $212,000 to Young’s $62,000. This is a potential gain for Democrats although Young’s status as a forty-year incumbent who has brought a lot of money to the area will make him a tough opponent. The 10th is almost 10% under the ideal population level and will likely be given some conservative precincts from the 9th.

 

Congresswoman Kathy Castor

The 11th congressional district is based in Tampa and includes most of the city and its suburbs. It extends south along the coast through Manatee County to include various working-class communities. Across the Tampa Bay, it also includes the southern and heavily African-American parts of St. Petersburg, which are connected to the rest of the district by the four-mile Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Twenty seven percent African American and 24% Hispanic, the district is one of the most heavily minority in the state. With a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+11, the district is strongly Democratic, a strategic move by Republicans to strengthen the surrounding conservative districts. Incumbent Kathy Castor is a Democrat first elected in 2006 with 70% of the vote, powered by over a million dollars raised for the Democratic primary. While she faces several Republican candidates, none has raised any significant amount, while she has raised over $350,000 so far. Castor looks to be a safe hold for the Democrats. If the FairDistricts initiative passes, the 11th, with two sections unconnected to each other by a land mass, may change considerably. If the initiative fails, however, the district is only 5% below the ideal population level and will likely retain its irregular shape. Presumably, liberal voters from the over-populated and conservative 9th, 12th and 13th will be added to the district, continuing the Republican strategy of concentrating Democrats in a single district to strengthen their own districts.

 

Florida's 12th and 15th Congressional Districts

 

Congressman Adam Putnam

 

Florida’s 12th congressional district is located in the middle of Central Florida and includes almost all of Polk County. The district is increasingly conservative, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+6. It gave McCain a slim margin in 2008, 50-49. Republican Congressman Adam Putnam has been in office since 2000 and has announced that  in 2010 he plans to run for state agriculture commissioner. Republican Dennis Ross, a former state legislator, leads the fundraising race to follow Putnam, with over $450,000 raised so far. The Democratic front-runner is Polk County Elections Supervisor Lori Edwards, who has raised just over $175,000 and has significant name recognition. None of the other candidates have raised more than $7,000. The 12th is a possible gain for Democrats in 2010 although Ross is looking like a solid candidate so far. The district is about 11% over the ideal population, and the more liberal part of which will probably be moved into the neighboring (and liberal) 11th. Depending on where the new 26th district is placed, some of the 12th residents might be moved into it.

 

Congressman Bill Posey

The 15th congressional district lies along the Eastern coast of Central Florida. It includes most of Brevard County and all of Indian River. The fastest-growing part of the district is in the west and centered on Kissimmee and St. Cloud. The 15th supported McCain by a 3% margin in 2008 and Bush by 14% in 2004. Its Cook Partisan Voting Index is R+6. The incumbent is first-term Republican Bill Posey who won received 53% of the vote in 2006. Posey has raised almost $600,000 in his reelection bid and currently faces no strong opponents. Democrats Shannon Roberts and John Bull are running but no fundraising information is available for either and neither has a website up at this point. Despite being a possible weak spot for Republicans, Democrats have not yet mounted a serious opposition and Posey looks safe, at least for now. The 15th is over 11% above the ideal population level. Its excess population will likely be moved north and south into the less overpopulated 24th and 16th. Again, depending on where the 26th district is positioned, some conservative residents of the 15th might be moved into that district.

Western Central Florida is likely to be very interesting during the 2011 redistricting process, whereas middle and eastern Central Florida will probably see more excitement in the 2010 election cycle. On the whole, the area could potentially look very different three years from now.

Tomorrow, we will discuss Southern Florida, which is made up of the 13th, 14th, 16th, 23rd and 25th districts.

Congressional pictures from each member’s official House site or gpoacess.gov.

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