Redistricting Saga: Senate Still Does Not Get It

It appears Majority Leader Andy Gardiner (pictured) with Senate President Mike Haridopolos will live to fight another day in the Senate despite the best efforts to eliminate his seat.

The release of the new Senate maps on Saturday led to a frenzy of speculation regarding the fate of sitting Senators and ambitious House members. What is painfully obvious is that the process has clarity thanks to the Fair Districts Amendment that overwhelmingly was approved statewide in 2010, but that the politicians, particularly in the State Senate, still seem willing to buck the will of the voters, their constituents, to achieve political ends. The Republican leadership fight is still fresh in many people’s memory, and Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) took advantage of this by seemingly displacing both Andy Gardiner (R-Apopka) and David Simmons (R- Altamonte Springs) in his map. Simmons responded by stating he would move north into Seminole County in order to avoid a bloody primary fight between political allies. Gaetz also managed to avoid drawing himself into the same district as fellow Okaloosa County Republican Greg Evers (R-Baker) cleverly using Interstate 10 as a boundary between the coastal and inland districts. This was originally done in the 1992 redistricting and maintained in 2002 but is one of the clear examples of why the Fair Districts Amendment was proposed and passed in the first place.

Further south, as we referenced yesterday, Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach) and Ellyn Bogdonoff (R-Fort Lauderdale) are now somewhat bizarrely in the same district, although it is possible that Sachs could run in the more Democratic seat carved out of Western Palm Beach County. In that seat (currently numbered Senate District 27) current State Rep. Joe Abruzzo (D-Wellington) declared he would jump into the race almost immediately after the maps were issued, causing a free for all musical chair game among Palm Beach County Democrats. Several other districts have questionable intent as well. As my colleague Dave Trotter pointed out soon after the new maps were issued, the Florida Senate continues to try and skirt the spirit of the Fair Districts Amendment while settling political scores.

The ultimate verdict on the new map will come from the courts, unless the Senate rejects the map outright this week. It is difficult if you are truly objective about the matter not to agree with Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, who dismissed the new map as a stalling tactic.  Smith stated “the map Sen. Don Gaetz has proposed brings us no closer to complying with the court’s ruling and is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by the GOP Senate leadership to stall the implementation of Fair Districts and cling to their gerrymandered power.  Not only have they thwarted the will of 63-percent of Florida voters, they are now thumbing their nose at Florida’s Supreme Court. It’s clear they have no intent to comply with the court’s ruling.”

Smith may seem like a partisan hack with gubernatorial ambitions to many in the Senate leadership, but they would be wise to heed the counsel of their former colleague on this matter. While the State House has been considered the more partisan body over the course of the GOP legislative hegemony that began in 1996, clearly they understood the mandate from the voters in a way the Senate still cannot properly grasp. For one of the few times in recent memory, the Senate would be wise to mimic the House to regain some common sense and decency.

13 thoughts on “Redistricting Saga: Senate Still Does Not Get It”

  1. Interesting analysis that is spot on regarding this map.

    But honestly this is not the final map. The Senate cannot risk another court rejection. I firmly believe the final map is sitting in reserve somewhere and will be produced at the last minute to avoid amendments and scrutiny.

    This map is without question still unconstitutional and the senate is not stupid enough to make the sane mistake twice.

  2. Why would anyone assume Senate is this clever?

    They are arrogant and power hungry. Thrasher runs the place. Gaetz, et al. are just followers.

    This revised effort will be tossed by the court without much debate.

    All they have done is invite even greater scrutiny. I would not be shocked if DOJ had to get involved at some point for the continued packing of blacks and Hispanics in the same seats also in order to protect surrounding GOP incumbents.

  3. Wrong.

    The Senate districts drawn in 2002 were intended to elect 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats. As this site very accurately pointed out in a previous article on Rod Smith, that map was a heavily partisan gerrymander. The Democrats brought the margin down to 25-15 when Charlie Justice won Sebesta’s seat but have since lost that won back and 2 additional D leaning districts, including Oelrich’s which is heavily D performing.

    So basically this map which is supposed to adhere to a constitutional amendment guaranteeing fair districts reflects the most partisan gerrymander of the past especially when you consider the state has trended more D since the last census.

    This map is going to be tossed without much discussion in the court.

  4. The Senate did their best to minimize the scrutiny of these districts releasing the map on a Saturday that happened to be St Patrick’s Day and drawing a few incumbents together. The rest if the map and even those few redraws remains highly questionable and to a strong extent partisan. This is an incumbent protection map for Republicans aligned with the incoming leadership team.

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  6. That was a way of packing Democrats into a single district and hoping the courts accepted them as minority access districts. I hope the courts see through this cynical ploy.

  7. This is correct. It was through a combination of bad luck and bad national trends that the Democrats fell to 12 seats, but the map in 2002 was drawn to protect incumbents except Richard Mitchell and to create a 26-14 senate by MAXIMIZING potential GOP seats. So this post constitutional amendment attempt to create a 25-15 GOP majority is insultung and illegal given the new law.

  8. The Latvala Amendment is going to go to the floor. It is a classic GOP gerrymander that will be dismissed in court.

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