Since I have harped non-stop on how important redistricting is going to be this year, I can't ignore the revelation Florida will pick up two new Congressional seats based on the census numbers.
The big focus has been on how this affects the Presidential election, but as far as Florida is concerned, we were the biggest swing state before and we're the biggest swing state now. The big change is we are now effectively the same size as New York in the electoral college with 29 votes.
I actually think the impact on our Congressional delegation has gotten short shrift. The fact that Florida will have as many House members as New York is hugely important. And when the Legislature convenes to debate redistricting, it will be the all-consuming news story.
What to watch for? Who wants to go to Congress. In 2002, then state Sen. Pro Tempore Ginny Brown-Waite wanted to go to Congress, so the Legislature redrew Karen Thurman's district to force a turnover. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris also wanted a trip to D.C., so an open seat was redrawn around her home base so that she was guaranteed a ticket.
Perhaps most germaine to this conversation, though, is that state House Speaker Tom Feeney and state Sen. Mario Diaz-Balart had two brand new seats drawn for them in districts where no Democrat could beat them.
A decade later, I suppose it is quite ironic none of these lawmakers still hold those seats. But only Feeney lost re-election, and that only lasted one cycle. When the new Congress convenes and Sandy Adams gets sworn in, each of these tinkered seats will have a Republican representative.
Now Fair Districts or not, I do not personally think there is any way to stop the two new seats being drawn by the Legislature from becoming Republican seats. But I do hope the new amendment prevents tinkering with any of our seats. We have so few seats at this point, the GOP may really have to go out of its way to find a pickup. But our Democratic lawmakers do need to be vigilant on this.
I think the think to watch in the next year is who expresses interest in Washington. I have mentioned before that while state Senate President Mike Haridopolos wants to run for Senate, he may decide it is easier to create a custom seat. Lots of term-limited lawmakers are likely dreaming of Washington at this point in their careers.
The other thing to watch, of course, is the half dozen freshman GOP lawmakers who will have to run for re-election. How important will it be to lawmakers to keep these seats? I suspect in a less Republican-friendly environment that several, notably Dan Webster, Dennis Ross and David Rivera, would not have been elected.
How badly does the Legislature want to protect these new lawmakers? I suspect with Webster, quite a bit. They don't want this seat slipping from their hands again, and it is a seat that Obama won as it drawn right now. I don't know where Ross and Rivera fall on their priority list, but I believe Rivera has the potential to be the biggest embarrassment for the Republican caucus in Washington because his financial disclosure issues.
Anyhow, I believe we need to write the two new seats off, but it will be vitally important we make sure no shenanigans go on beyond that.
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