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Florida Legislature Moves Closer to New Map

Updated: 9:10 p.m.

The GOP-held Florida Legislature moved one step closer to a new Congressional map today, with new lines released by the state House Redistricting Committee.

Florida Republicans told Roll Call the new map represents something very close to a final compromise plan between the two chambers.

The map adds two seats allotted to Florida in reapportionment (one Republican, one Democratic), solidifies a huge GOP advantage in the delegation, endangers freshman Republican Reps. Allen West and Steve Southerland, and leaves a few Members such as Republican Reps. Cliff Stearns and Rich Nugent with big decisions about what district they will run in.

If this map were to be law for the 2012 elections, Democrats appear likely to pick up two to four seats, leaving them with eight to 10 districts out of 27.

The new Congressional lines were offered as an amendment to a redistricting bill. They are expected to be approved by the committee this week and Republican chamber next week.

“Behind the scenes, their offer should represent the nearly done map,” one Florida Republican official told Roll Call. “They could be at the finish line today, and even if they’re not at the finish line, they’re fairly close.”

“Obviously we have some process ground to cover,” said a Tallahassee Republican official, noting that the bill still had to wind its way through a committee, the full House and, later, the Senate. But, the source added, this map was “the product of eight months of work by the committee” and represented something very close to the piece of legislation to land on Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

Scott is likely to sign this map into law, Republicans said.

Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, any new Florida map would have to be approved by the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before it becomes enforceable.

Democrats are almost certain to sue over the map, which they believe violates a new state constitutional provision requiring Congressional lines to be drawn without “the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.”

Some Members such as Rep. Vern Buchanan (R), who had been made vulnerable by earlier iterations of the map, liked what they saw today.

“It’s a clear winner for us,” Buchanan spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts said. She noted that the district Buchanan would run in, numbered the 16th, contains 96 percent of the Congressman’s current district. Buchanan won with 69 percent of the vote in 2010.

But not all Members with safe districts liked every aspect of the map released today. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a south Florida Republican, would likely end up in a safe GOP district, but one without the Florida Keys, under the proposal.

“It has been such an honor and a delight for me to have represented the beautiful Florida Keys for almost 10 years and I don’t want to lose the joy of representing these constituents,” she said in a statement to Roll Call late today. “However, as the Serenity Prayer teaches us, I must have the wisdom to know that this process is outside of my control.

“I am honored by the voters to be a Member of Congress from South Florida and I will humbly accept the challenge of vying for any seat. I always say that there ain’t a bad seat in the House,” she added.

Florida Democrats absorbed the new lines today with the understanding that any gains this cycle could be modest.

“You can make the mathematical argument that there are more than four seats in play,” one plugged-in Sunshine State Democrat said. But “you have to take into considerations the politics of incumbency,” the source added, acknowledging that the pickup number for Democrats under this map is three to five seats.

“But I think that over the life of the map, there will be a few more districts that come into play,” the Democrat said.

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