Redistricting in Florida: Part Five

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale- Palm Beach area includes the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd districts. The more southern 18th and 21st are held by Republicans while the rest are held by Democrats. All, however, are below the ideal population level, some by a considerable amount.

Florida's 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd congressional districts

Congressman Kendrick Meek

Florida’s 17th congressional district is located at the historical center of Miami’s black population, in the north-east of Miami-Dade County. 56% of the district’s residents are African-American and 25% are Hispanic. The 17th is one of the most liberal in the country; it has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+34 and voted 87% for Obama in 2008. The incumbent is Democrat Kendrick Meek, first elected in 2002, who replaced his mother when she retired from representing the district. As Meek is running for Senate in 2010, the seat is left open, in a race that will almost certainly be decided by the Democratic primary. Almost a dozen Democrats are running, some already racking up fundraising numbers over $100,000. Leading the pack so far is Rudolph Moise with $213,245. The 17th currently has the third smallest population of any district in Florida at about 6% below the population ideal. As the most liberal district in the area, the 17th will likely become even more Democratic in redistricting as Republicans strengthen their hold on neighboring districts by transferring Democratic precincts to the 17th. Of all the Miami-Dade area districts, the 17th is one of the most geographically logical and so stands to stay fairly close to its current state, unless the FairDistricts initiative causes the entire map to be redrawn from scratch.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

The 18th congressional district contains most of the city of Miami, stretching from Calle Ocho to West Miami and Westchester, and parts of Miami Beach. It also includes some of the wealthiest parts of the city such as Coral Gables, Cocoplum and Key Biscayne. South of Miami. The district stretches south to Key West and includes the entire Florida Keys. While the district was drawn to be Republican and still leans to the right, there is a sharp political divide between the conservative Hispanics (largely Cuban) centered in the Miami-Dade area and the liberal gay communities in Miami Beach and Key West. The 18th has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+3 but voted for Obama by a two point margin in 2008. The incumbent is Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who was first elected in a special election in 1989. Ros-Lehtinen had her closest race since her first in 2008, when Democrat Annette Taddeo ran against her, although she still won 58% of the vote. Infamously, then President-Elect Obama called Ros-Lehtinen after the election to congratulate her and she hung up on him, thinking it was a prank caller. Ros-Lehtinen looks safe this year, despite the swing nature of the district, as she has raised over $700,000 and has no challengers as of now. The 18th is the second least populated district in Florida, at almost ten percent below the ideal population level. It is likely that Republicans in redistricting will move conservative precincts from the over-populated 25th into the district.

Congressman Robert Wexler

Florida’s 19th congressional district is made up of Palm Beach and Broward Counties and entirely inland. It reaches from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach and includes Margate, Mission Bay, and most of Boca Raton. The district was drawn by Republicans to pack in Democratic precincts, resulting in its irregular shape. It is one the most heavily Jewish districts in the country and is solidly liberal, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+15. The 19th’s incumbent was Democrat Robert Wexler until he resigned last month to become the president of the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation. Wexler had been in office since 1996 and a special election will be held to replace him in April. The primary for this election was held the first week of February and the two victors were Democrat Ted Deutch and Republican Edward Lynch. Deutch leads the fundraising race with over $920,000 to Lynch’s almost $50,000 and Deutch is the strong favorite to win the election, retaining the seat for the Democrats. The 19th is slightly above the ideal population level for the state, with about 18,000 more people than it ought to have. Republican legislators will surely continue to use the 19th as a packing-ground for liberal precincts and move some of its more conservative precincts into more competitive districts such as the 22nd. The 19th, with its heavily gerrymandered shape, is a likely target of the FairDistricts initiative if it is successful.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

The 20th congressional district is another oddly shaped one, including parts of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. It is largely inland but also includes Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Dania Beach on the coast. The district is fairly wealthy and has an average median income of over $54,000. Drawn to be solidly liberal, the 20th has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+13 and voted for Obama with a twenty-seven point margin in 2008. Democratic Incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz was first elected in 2004 after serving twelve years in the state House. She has raised over $660,000 so far in the current campaign cycle and her next closest opponent, Republican Robert Lowey, has raised $26,000. Wasserman Schultz looks solid to hold onto her seat in November. The 20th is about three percent underneath the ideal population level. Republicans will likely continue their practice of stacking it with liberal precincts in order to strengthen themselves elsewhere, so the district is almost certain to remain Democratic. As with most of the other Miami area districts, the 20th stands to change considerably if the FairDistricts initiative passes.

Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Florida’s 21st congressional district is in Miami-Dade County and southern Broward County, and it is an irregular rectangle that stretches about twenty miles north to south but is only six miles across at its very widest. Home to Miami International Airport, the 21st is seventy-three percent Hispanic. The Cook Partisan Voting Index of the district is R+5 and the district voted for McCain by a two point margin in 2008. The 21st’s incumbent is Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart who has been in office since 1992. He is the brother of Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of the 25th. Lincoln Diaz-Balart announced last week that he would not be running for reelection in November; within minutes of this announcement, Mario Diaz-Balart stated that he would run for the seat in the 21st. It remains to be seen how this move by Mario Diaz-Balart will be received by the voters of the 21st, but the seat is more solidly Republican that his current 25th. Also in the race is Republican William Sanchez. While no Democrats have announced plans to run as yet, in light of the recent developments, it seems highly probable that this race will become much more competitive. The district is just slightly under-populated, with almost 4% less than the ideal population level. In redistricting, Republicans will likely try to move more Republican precincts into the district in order to strengthen it politically.

Congressman Ron Klein

The 22nd congressional district runs along the Atlantic Coast, from Jupiter in Palm Beach County in the north to Fort Lauderdale in Broward County in the south. While it generally sticks to the coast, it stretches inwards at a few points. The 22nd has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+1 although it has been more conservative historically. The district was redrawn in 2002 in an attempt to strengthen then-Incumbent Republican Clay Shaw by creating a demographic that is elderly and wealthy for the most part. However, in 2006, the district continued moving to the left and ousted Shaw in favor of Democrat Ron Klein. Klein won 51-47 in one of the most expensive House races in the country that year and received 55% of the vote in 2008 while running against Republican Allen West. This election cycle, Klein has raised over $1.4 million so far and West, who is running again, has raised over $1.2 million. While Klein won by about ten points last time around and is looking solid this year, this race could be a possible gain for Republicans. The 22nd is about three percent below the ideal population level. Because it is such a swing district, it is likely that Republicans will add conservative precincts to it in order to better their chances in the next election.

As a region, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale- Palm Beach is one of the most under-populated parts of Florida and will likely see a lot of changes as a result of this during the 2012 redistricting. If the FairDistricts initiative is passed the changes are almost certain to be even more extensive, though the Voting Rights Act implications of the Latino- and African American-held seats will limit Fair Districts-driven changes.

On the whole, Florida’s election season and redistricting season are each likely to be very interesting to political observers. There are several competitive seats which may change hands between the parties in 2010, although it seems extremely unlikely that the Republican tilt of the state’s delegation will change. Additionally, Florida’s huge growth will almost certainly lead to the gain of a 26th congressional seat for the state. Due to their control of the legislature, Republicans will likely be able to draw the districts so as to make this new seat conservative and at the same time strengthen their holdings in other districts. Of course, if the FairDistricts initiative is passed, all this may change. Due to the strange shape of many districts, it is not impossible that all of Florida’s districts will be significantly redrawn to abide by the new regulations. The success or failure of an initiative such as this will be an interesting test of many proposals across the country which purport to make the redistricting process more reasonable and less partisan.

Congressional pictures from each member’s official House site or from blogs.browardpalmbeach.com

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