Our southern Florida region contains five districts: 13th, 14th, 16th, 23rd and 25th. Four seats are held by Republicans and over-populated while the 23rd is held by a Democrat and relatively under-populated.
Floridaâ€™s 13th congressional district stretches along the Gulf Coast from just below Tampa Bay to Charlotte harbor. It includes all of Sarasota, DeSoto and Hardee Counties and most of Manatee County. Twenty-six percent of the 13thâ€™s population is over 65 and it has leaned to the right with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+6. The incumbent is second-term Republican Vern Buchanan. He replaced Kathleen Harris when she ran for Senate in 2006. His 2006 campaign was the most expensive House race in the country, with Buchanan spending over $8 million, $5.5 of which was his own money. Buchanan is continuing his large fundraising numbers, having raised over $1.3 million so far. His only opponent is Democrat James Golden who has raised just over $60,000. Buchanan could potentially be vulnerable but without a strong Democratic challenger, he looks safe to hold his seat in November. The 13th is slightly overpopulated with just under 40,000 residents more than the ideal. In redistricting, Democratic precincts could be moved from the 13th into the 11th in the northwest and others could moved east towards the under-populated Miami area. The 13th is one of the most regularly shaped districts in Florida, although if the FairDistricts initiative passes, all of FloridaÂ may look extremely different after 2012.
The 14th district is just south of the 13th and runs along the Gulf Coast. Retirees account for more than one in four residents. The district includes all of Lee County and parts of Charlotte and Collier Counties. It also includes various islands along the coast. The district is solidly conservative with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+11. The incumbent is Republican Connie Mack. Mack was first elected in 2004 and has been a staunch conservative on most issues, although he is more moderate on environmental issues. Mack has raised close to $400,000 so far and none of his opponents have come anywhere close to that. He looks to be the strong favorite in the election. The 14th is almost 18% over the ideal population level. Some of its conservative precincts will likely be moved east towards Miami and parts may be incorporated into a new district or shifted north if the new district is closer to Central Florida.
Floridaâ€™s 16th congressional district is the onlyÂ district in the state that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Coast, making it one of the most strangely drawn districts in the country. In the east it includes most of Martin and St. Lucie Counties. A thin line connects this area with the lightly populated rural sections in the central and west part of the district which contain huge citrus, tomato and other vegetable farms. The district is conservative, giving McCain its vote with a 5% margin in 2008 and receiving a Cook Partisan Voting Index score of R+5. The incumbent is first-term Republican Tom Rooney. He won in 2008 when his opponent, Democrat Tim Mahoney, admitted to having engaged in â€œmultiple affairsâ€ while in office. Mahoney won the seat in 2006 after then-incumbent Mark Foley resigned after a scandal involving him sending explicit messages to Congressional Pages. Rooney has raised over $730,000 so far; his Democratic challenger, Chris Craft, has just broken $100,000. Due to both the conservative nature of the district and Rooneyâ€™s fundraising advantage, he looks solid to retain his seat despite his status as a freshman legislator. The 16th is overpopulated by almost 10% of the ideal district population. Liberal precincts will likely be moved west into the under-populated and liberal Miami area and some conservative precincts may be moved in the direction of a new, conservative 26th district.
The 23rd congressional district has most of its land mass in the Everglades in the central part of Southern Florida. It includes four tentacles stretching eastwards towards the Atlantic Ocean. The first goes into St. Lucie County to includeÂ African-American neighborhoods in Fort Pierce, the second into West Palm Beach and Delray Beach, the third into African-American areas in Lauderhill, Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach and Pompano Beach, and the last into Miramar and Pembroke Pines. The district is geographically strange but most of it is demographically consistent as it has been formed to hold encompass most of the heavily African-American areas in Southern Florida. The district is 54.5% African American, one of the highest percentages in the country. The 23rd is also heavily democratic, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+28. Democratic incumbent Alcee Hastings has been in office since 1992 and won 82% of the vote in the last general election. His current opponent is Republican Bernard Sansaricq, a Haitian-American who was previously President of the Haitian Senate. Hastings, however, has raised over $350,000 and looks safe to hold onto his seat for another term. The 23rd is about 5% under the ideal population level for a district, but it is likely to remain heavily African American after the 2012 redistricting. Even if the FairDistricts initiative passes, the 23rd is a Voting Rights Act minority-held district and so protected to some extent by federal law.
Floridaâ€™s 25th district is located at the very southern tip of the state. Created during the 2002 redistricting process, the district sprawls across the Everglades and includes parts of Collier and Monroe Counties in the west and the south west parts of Miami in the east, where most of the districtâ€™s population resides. In the eastern part of the district, the people are heavily Cuban and Latino. The district also includes the fastest growing town in the state, Homestead, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1992 but has since been redeveloped. The district leans conservative, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+5, and voted for McCain by a margin of one point in 2008. The incumbent in the 25th is Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, who as chair of the state House Redistricting committee in 2002 tailored the seat for himself. However, last week, Diaz-Balart announced that he would not run again and would instead run for the newly open 21st district to the east of the 25th. This announcement came minutes after the statement by the current representative from the 21st, Diaz-Balartâ€™s brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart, that he would not be running for reelection in November. This sudden opening will surely be filled by many candidates in the coming weeks. At the moment, there is no clear frontrunner. State representative and current candidate for state Senate David Rivera has been mentioned as a possible Republican nominee as has his opponent in that senate race, Anitere Flores. On the democratic side, the opening could convince Joe Garcia, Diaz-Balartâ€™s 2008 opponent, to try again. While he is currently working in Washington, Garcia came within six points of winning two years ago and would be a strong challenger for the seat. Additionally, Democrat Luis Rivera was already in the race. This is definitely a possible win for either party and likely to prove one of the more exciting races in the state. The 25th is the third most populous district in the state, at almost 15% over the population ideal. In the 2011 redistricting, more Democratic precincts will probably be moved into the already Democratic 23rd, with other precincts moving towards the under-populated Miami-Dade area.
Excluding the 23rd, Southern Florida is made up of some of the most over-populated districts in the state. Southern Florida could be a major site for change in the 2012 redistricting, with the new district possibly being located in or near it. Additionally, the news of Mario Diaz-Balartâ€™s decision not to run again in the 21st has left an exciting race open with a change of party hands possible.
Tomorrow, in the final installment in our series, we will focus on the Miami-Fort Lauderdale- Palm Beach area, which includes the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd districts.
Congressional pictures from each member’s official House site or from gpoacess.gov