Florida Redistricting: The Complete Analysis

Florida redistricting after the 2010 census is likely to be a partisan struggle. The state is likely to gain an additional Congressional seat (for a total of 26). Despite having more registered Democrats than Republicans in Florida, the state government is dominated by Republicans. The state Senate has twenty-six Republicans to fourteen Democrats and the state House has seventy-six Republicans to forty-four Democrats. Additionally, the governor and one senator are also Republicans. This study will present a general overview of Florida redistricting followed by close examination of the more competitive, at risk or over-populated Congressional districts. This study will also consider the potential impact of the FairDistricts measure headed for Florida’s ballot this November. Currently, Republicans hold fifteen of Florida’s twenty-five Congressional seats. The state is expected to gain one additional seat after the 2010 census. The Democrats’ ten seats are generally clustered around urban areas. Grouped around Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach on the Southeastern coast of the state are 17th, 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd. In West Tampa, is the 11th and near Orlando, Jacksonville, Gainesville and Orange, Seminole, Brevard and Volusia Counties. The 2nd in the Western part of the Panhandle includes Tallahassee and Panama City. According to 2007 data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the average Democrat- held district is currently under-populated by about 3,700 people. The Republican-held seats, in contrast, are generally in more rural areas of the state. Their districts are over-populated by an average of almost 74,000 people. Five seats will be open in 2010: the 12th, 17th, 19th, 21st and 25th. The incumbents of the first two left office to run for other elected positions, the third to become president of non-profit, the fourth to retire and the fifth to run for the seat vacated by the fourth. As a result of the 2002 redistricting plan, Republicans initially held eighteen of the Congressional seats as a result of gaining two seats during the redistricting process, with new seats created specifically for Tom Feeney, then Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, and Mario Diaz-Balart, then chair of the state House’s redistricting committee. Over the course of the 2006 and 2008 elections, however, the Republicans have since lost three seats (the 8th, 22nd and 24th) resulting in the current balance of fifteen Republicans and ten Democrats. Later parts of this report will go into more detail about how the 2010 election may change the composition of the Florida House delegation.

The latest population estimate from the American Community Survey (ACS) puts the population of Florida at 18,182,321, up 13.8% from 15,982,813 in 2000. These numbers, however, are calculated based on 2006-2008 and so do not take into account the recent loss on population that the state has experienced. For the first time since 1946, Florida’s population declined in a given year, losing almost 60,000 residents in the year leading up to April 2009 as a result of the economic recession. The University of Florida has more recent data numbers that show the state at 18,748,925 in April 2009, down from 18,807,219 the year before. For purposes of this report, the ACS data will be used as they have released the most up-to-date estimates on population per congressional district. Assuming that Florida gains the seat it is expected to in the coming redistricting, the state will have twenty-six seats. Based on the ACS numbers, each district should have about 699, 320 people living within it in order to have equally sized districts. Redistricting in Florida is done by the state legislature. They are expected to pass a joint resolution either during the regular session or a thirty day special session called by the governor. (If they fail finish an apportionment plan, the Supreme Court is to make one within sixty days). Once the legislature has passed a joint resolution, the Supreme Court determines its validity and it becomes law. If the plan is not approved by the Court, the legislature fixes any problems during a fifteen day session after which it goes back to the Supreme Court again. If the plan is not approved (again), or if the legislature is not able to reach a new joint resolution within the fifteen days, the Court has sixty days to make its own plan. The governor does not have veto power over the legislative or Supreme Court plan [though he can veto or sign the Congressional plan]. The Florida state legislature has been Republican since 1994, and it is highly unlikely that enough seats will be transferred to the Democrats during the upcoming 2010 elections to swing the balance of power. In the state senate, Republicans currently have twenty-six of forty seats, and in the state house, they have seventy-six out of one hundred and twenty. An initiative called FairDistricts will be on the ballot in 2010 proposing a constitutional amendment to restrict gerrymandering. It would require the legislature to draw compact districts that conform to pre-existing political and geographic boundaries. Currently the only restrictions on redistricting in the state are that all districts must be contiguous and the map must follow federal law and the Voting Rights Act. A December 2009 poll found that 55% of likely voters supported the initiative although 35% remained unsure and said they did not know enough about the issue to decide. While the initiative is generally supported by most Democrats (though some African American elected leaders have expressed concerns about it) and attacked by Republicans, it is worth remembering that in 1991 Democrats divided districts to their political advantage just as Republicans did in 2001. The Democratic over-reach in 1991 made possible a swing to Republican control in the Republican sweep of 1994. If the Fair Districts initiative passes, it will leave control of redistricting in the Legislature’s hands but impose significant restrictions on how it can draw the lines. The degree of that control will almost certainly be the subject of multiple post-redistricting lawsuits. According to the Census Bureau’s 2006-2008 American Community Survey figures, the state’s population was 60.3% white, 21.0% Hispanic, and 15.9% African-American. The state’s 2007 poverty rate was 12.1% and in 2000, 23.1% spoke a language other than English at home. The population is far older than the national average, with 17.4% of residents sixty-five years or older as of 2008, compared with 12.8% in the country as a whole. The state’s governor, Charlie Crist, is Republican but will be leaving office to run for Senate in 2010. His likely successor is the current State Attorney General, Republican Bill McCollum. Although state government is largely dominated by Republicans, Florida has been a swing state in the last few presidential elections. In 2008, Barack Obama won with 51% of the vote, and in 2004, George W. Bush won with 52%, after the state’s infamously close count in 2000 elected President Bush by less than six hundred votes. Along with the House races in November, Florida will have election for governor and senate as well. With Republicans currently polling well in both races, this could possibly increase voting turnout amongst the Republican population, thereby strengthening Republicans throughout the ballot. For the purposes of this report, we have divided Florida into five regions: the Panhandle, Northern Florida, Central Florida, Southern Florida and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach. Each will be addressed individually.

The Panhandle contains two very different districts: the more rural and conservative 1st and the more liberal and urban 2nd.

Florida’s 1st Congressional district is in the Western-most part of the state and has the most military veterans of any district in the country, making up 19.4% of its population. Culturally very southern, the district is 76.1% white and has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R +21. In the 2008 presidential election, the 1st gave John McCain 67% of its vote. The incumbent in the 1st is Republican Jeff Miller, first elected in a special election in October 2001 which followed the resignation of Joe Scarborough to become a talk-show host on MSNBC. The American Conservative Union gave Miller a 100% rating in 2008 and in his first election, Miller received 66% of the vote and has not fallen below that number in a general election since. He has raised over $140,000 in the campaign cycle so far; his next closest opponent just over $6,000. What could happen to this district? With a population of 694,028, the district is just barely below the estimated ideal population based on the ACS numbers and so will probably be slightly expanded to the west. This slight change, however, will not be enough to change the partisan balance and Miller’s seat seems safe.

Florida’s 2nd Congressional district is directly east of the 1st and is centered on the state’s capitol, Tallahassee. It extends west to Destin and east to the Sewanee River and is the part of the state with the highest percentage of native Floridians. There is a political divide between more-liberal Tallahassee in Leon County and the rest of the district. While Leon County has solidly supported Democrats in recent presidential elections, the district as a whole voted for McCain, giving him 54% of the vote and it has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R +6. The 2nd is 70.5% white and 22% African-American and 17.3% of its residents live below the poverty line. The incumbent is Blue Dog Democrat Allen Boyd, who was first elected in 1996. Boyd describes himself as a moderate Democrat with a social conscience and this is supported by his National Journal Rankings, which place him nearly squarely in the middle except on social issues where he leans more Democratic. Boyd has been easily reelected, running unopposed in 2006 and beating Republican Mark Mulligan by twenty-four points in 2008. Boyd has raised over $850,000 in the current campaign cycle, while his closest opponent, Democratic State Senator Alfred Lawson Jr., has raised almost $80,000. A poll from November 2009 showed Lawson to be leading Boyd by about 35-31, within the 4.6% margin of error. While national Republicans have yet to take a significant stand behind any of the several GOP candidates for this seat, it is one of the better chances in the state for the Republicans to gain a seat and so they will likely spend more time and money on the campaign once the primaries are done. Watch for this race to become competitive as the general election approaches, although it seems safe for the Democrats for now. The 2nd is about 5,000 people over the ideal population, not enough to significantly change the demographic make-up of the district. It seems likely that this 5,000 will simply be taken from the 2nd’s western border and added to the 1st district as it is about 5,000 people under the ideal population.

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.

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 and west to include other largely minority and Democratic areas such as Gainesville, Sanford and Eatonville. As a result of this gerrymandering, 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 under populated 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Florida’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 13th’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 Florida 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.

Florida’s 16th congressional district is the only 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 multiple affairs 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 Rooney’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 include 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.

Florida’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 district’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-Balart’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-Balart’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-Balart’s decision not to run again in the 21st has left an exciting race open with a change of party hands possible.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Florida welcome sign picture courtesy of Valerie Renee. Congressional pictures from each member’s official House site, from blogs.browardpalmbeach.com, from the House Republican Conference or from gpoacess.gov

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