This is the first in a series discussing the newly drawn US House district boundaries in Florida. Despite Florida voters passing Amendments Five (State) and Six (Federal) in 2010 (Fair Districts), the new map is rife with partisan gerrymandering. Who cares about the wishes of the people when the RPOF has super majorities? Data for Obama/McCain, Sink/Scott, party registration and racial composition is pulled from the Orlando Sentinel.
UPDATE: DailyKos Elections put together a great grid of information here.
US House District 1: Resembles the old first district, is composed of the western half of the panhandle. This is a strong Republican seat with over 50% Republican registration. John McCain’s 2008 Presidential campaign and Rick Scott’s 2010 Gubernatorial campaign both pulled in well over 60% of the vote in this district.
US House District 2: This seat resembles the old second district, composed of the eastern half of the panhandle with Tallahassee composing a huge chunk of the population. Democratic registration is over 54%, but this isn’t the super safe territory that would imply. Obama took just 47% of the vote here, bested by McCain’s 52%. Alex Sink fared better versus Rick Scott, netting a 52% to 45% victory. Prior to 2010, this seat was held by Conservative Blue Dog Democrat Allen Boyd. With a strong minority population (23.5 Black, 5% Hispanic) this seat is absolutely winnable by a progressive Democratic candidate. It should end up in Democratic hands in 2012. With a strong campaign effort and help down ticket, Barack Obama could win this district in 2012.
Incumbent Republican Steve Southerland will seek re-election and a gaggle of Democrats have already jumped in the fray to challenge him for this enticing seat. State Rep. Leonard Bembry, Former Bay County Democratic Chair/Lawyer Alvin Peters, and Environmental Activist Jay Liles are in, rumors of additional candidates exist. Ex-Republican Nancy Argenziano, former State Senator, former State Rep and former Charlie Crist appointed Public Service Commissioner and party revolution activist first indicated she might seek the seat as a Democrat last summer, but has filed for the seat as an Independent.
US House District 3: A gigantic swath of land spanning from the Gulf Coast to the Saint Johns river just outside Jacksonville, this seat is absolutely criminal. It skirts around a variety of cities, avoiding urban/minority populations and progressive neighborhoods. The intent appears to be to drown out the Yellow Dog Democrats that dominate this region with rural and suburban engaged conservative voters. Democrats outnumber Republicans in registration, 43.5% to 39% but neither Obama (39.5%) nor Sink (40.5%) performed in line with the registration. This district combines parts of the old 4th, 5th, and 6th districts, all of which were held by Republicans in 2010 and prior.
If Sink’s performance was slightly better, this would be easily identified as a ripe target for Democrats, but at 40.5% it was pretty abysmal, only 1% better than Obama’s in 2008. However, Sink’s campaign was horrific statewide and lacked any field effort in these rural counties. There was no support down ticket in this region in 2010 and Rick Scott funded a heavy field operation throughout these rural counties. My conclusion is that this is territory we should be working for aggressively in 2012 and beyond. If we fielded quality candidates at the State House, State Senate and US House levels for (several) consecutive cycles, we could likely revive the Yellow Dog base that already exists and turn this region of the state at least purple.
Incumbent Republican Cliff Sterns has announced he will seek this seat in 2012, joining a primary adventure with Clay County Clerk of Court James Jett and State Senator/Former Alachua Sheriff Steve Oelrich and one or more some guys.
US House District 4: This seat resembles the old district 4, wrapping around Jacksonville while avoiding Democratic neighborhoods and minorities as much as possible. Currently held by Republicans, likely to remain so with a 10.5% registration advantage and the history of both McCain and Scott breaking 60% in the district.
Incumbent Republican Ander Crenshaw will seek re-election here, a parade of some guys may or may not challenge him the primary and/or general election.
US House District 5: Possibly the most criminally gerrymandered seat in Florida, though not really any worse than it’s former incarnation as District 3. Held by long time Democratic Representative Corrine Brown, this is a majority-minority seat (49% Black, 11% Hispanic) that stretches from Jacksonville to Gainesville and then down to Orlando’s urban community. Don’t think it is criminal? There are multiple places where you can stand and have this district North, South, East and West of you, while not being in this district. Conversely you can say the same about some of the districts that are wrapped around the 3rd. There is no reasonable argument that this district is compact. It at times gets narrow enough to be filled with a moderate sized high school marching band (though some of them would need to be on rafts) and expanding as wide as is needed to pack in large urban/Democratic populations. This is what ‘packing’ is all about. Make adjacent districts better for the opposing Republican Party by packing as many Democrats in to one district as is possible. As it is constructed, 60.5% of registered voters are Democrats, Obama cleared 70% and Sink mustered a healthy 65%. I’m all for honoring the Voting Rights Act (VRA) but we must also preserve compact and contiguous communities – it isn’t either or, we can do both. If this district were redrawn honoring the intent of Amendment 6, it is extremely likely there would more more opportunity for minority representation and CERTAIN that the region would be better represented in Congress.
Incumbent Corrine Brown will face a variety of some guy Republican and 3rd party candidates.
US House District 6: This is primarily what used to be the 7th Congressional district. The Atlantic coast from just south of Jacksonville, including St. Johns, Flagler, and Volusia counties. Incumbent John Mica is redistricted out, joining his two friends from Winter Park in a game of ‘which seat looks best?’ Mica announced recently he will run in the new 7th District, which lines him up for a primary with Representative Sandy Adams. The open 6th district is pretty tough territory for Democrats, with a 40% to 36.5% Republican registration advantage and decent performance numbers from both McCain (53.4%) and Scott (54.6%). Though to be fair, in neither 2008 nor 2010 was there much effort by challenger campaigns in these counties. This seat is well within range to be picked up with a 2-3 cycle effort and with the right circumstances it could be won by Obama and a strong Democratic challenger candidate in 2012.
The lack of major media markets within the district make it more challenging, like much of Florida this seat will require an expensive and high quality field effort to be flipped.
Craig Miller recently dropped his US Senate bid to run for this open seat, he has been joined in the primary by a Jacksonville area lawyer/Iraq Vet Ron DeSantis and more are expected to join the fray. Several Democrats have expressed interest in running for this seat, only Vipin Verma is currently filed for the old 7th (who?) and will presumably refile for the new 6th where he lives.
State Rep Fred Costello (Ormond Beach) is also running as a Republican.
Summary for Districts 1 through 6: There are currently five Republicans and 1 Democrat representing this territory. With no major changes to the map as passed by the legislature, it is highly likely we will regain District 2 in 2012, and there is an outside chance at picking up Districts 3 and 6 over the next three cycles. To swing these six seats from 5R/1D to 2R/4D would be a huge coup, particularly when you consider the lengths to which Republicans went to protect themselves with gerrymandering. If the DOJ/Courts find fault with the maps as drawn, particularly with regard to the abomination that is District 5, the chances of Democratic gains in north Florida grow significantly.
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