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Democrats Likely to Gain One House Seat in Florida Redraw

Graham's current House seat will become too Republican-leaning for a Democrat to carry. (File Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Graham's current House seat will become too Republican-leaning for a Democrat to carry. (File Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Florida Senate released a draft of a new congressional district map  Wednesday that, if approved, would likely lead to Democrats netting one House seat in 2016.  

The map must still be approved by the state Legislature in a special session , which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 10. But if the map released Wednesday is adopted for the 2016 cycle, Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham and Republican Rep. Daniel Webster are likely to have tough — if not impossible — roads to re-election.  

Under the draft map, Graham’s Panhandle-based 2nd District is set to lose a chunk of black voters in Tallahassee to Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown’s new 5th District. The loss of those voters would make the seat too GOP-leaning for the freshman Democrat to hold. That new reality would force Graham to make a tough decision: Does she challenge Brown in the 5th District, run for the state’s open Senate seat, or forgo re-election and run for governor in 2018.  

If the new map is adopted, Webster would also be in trouble in his 10th District. The draft map takes a chunk of minority voters who are currently in the southern portion of Brown’s district and draws them into Webster’s seat. Whereas the current district is made up of roughly 29 percent minority voters , the new seat would be comprised of 50 percent minority voters . Under the new district lines, President Barack Obama would have carried the seat with roughly 60 percent of the vote based in the 2012 election, according to Matthew Isbell, a data consultant and Democrat.  

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat who lost a gubernatorial race in Florida in 2014, would also come out ahead under the proposed map should he decide to run for the House.  

Crist’s home, along with a chunk of Democratic voters, was drawn into the Pinellas County-based 13th District. GOP Rep. David Jolly already announced a Senate bid , knowing the redrawn seat would be too Democratic-friendly to hold. Crist would face a primary against former Defense Department official Eric Lynn, but his connections and familiar name would make him the clear front-runner in the race.  

The Florida Supreme Court ordered a mandated redraw of the congressional map in July, ruling that the current map was drawn in violation of the state’s constitution. The court listed eight seats —Districts 5, 13, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27 — had to be redrawn to adhere to the state’s Fair Districts Amendment.  

The draft map tweaked all of those districts, though redrawing the 5th and 13th had the most implications for the balance of power in the state.  

Consultants from both parties say it’s unclear how contentious the special legislative session will get, and how easy a road the new map will have in being adopted.  

According to rules released by state Senate President Andy Gardiner, “every Senator will have a full opportunity to review, discuss, debate, and decide whether to accept or amend the base map.”  


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