The Florida Supreme Court has ruled the state’s congressional maps don’t meet requirements of a voter-approved constitutional amendment prohibiting political lines drawn to favor incumbents or political parties. The court ordered the Legislature to redraw the maps
These are big questions looming over Florida politics:
Will the Legislature appeal? Political science emeritus professor Darryl Paulson says it should. “The Voting Rights Act was passed to expand majority-minority districts and then to preserve and protect them,” Paulson said. “Now you have the Florida Supreme Court challenging four of the majority-minority districts that exist in the state of Florida, which to me seems a blatantly unwise policy. Paulson said U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown likely has a case charging the ruling violates the Voting Rights Act.
What’s the timetable to redraw the lines? The court gave the Legislature 100 days, which normally would be time enough, but it starts committee meetings mid-September. To have a new map done before then, they should have started yesterday.
Who’s driving the redistricting train? The already-powerful Speaker-Designate Richard Corcoran now, as the Select Committee on Redistricting chairman, has in his hands the fate of dozens of Florida politicians. Bill Galvano, Corcoran’s Senate counterpart, also is a force to be reckoned with.
Who’s hurt more by the decision, Gwen Graham or David Jolly? Both have been labeled losers of the week in Florida politics because the U.S. representatives would have trouble winning re-election in redrawn seats. The bigger loser? Probably Graham, because she has fewer options than Jolly, in spite of her brighter future. Graham hasn’t a plausible intellectual argument to enter the U.S. Senate race. And she can’t lose her U.S. House District 2 race and expect to run for governor in 2018. Jolly has a better case to run for Senate. As a sensible moderate in a field of conservatives, he’s from the state’s largest media market; he knows D.C. But he could likely return to the private sector to a seven-figure salary. He can’t be the GOP’s sacrificial lamb GOP, though, and lose in House District 13. It’s Senate or bust. There’s probably a 90 percent chance of him running.
Is Charlie Crist in? Redrawing District 13 as the Supreme Court envisions turns a four-decade GOP seat into a lay-up for Democrats. So Crist would be crazy not to run, right? Politico’s Marc Caputo has well-placed sources saying Crist is thinking about running. However, I don’t think Crist will pull the trigger. Among the reasons: He wants to return to the governor’s mansion. If he won the congressional seat, he can’t turn around in 2018 and run for governor. He’s more likely waiting for Bill Nelson to retire. And Charlie Crist in D.C. during the winter? Puh-leeze.
If the congressional maps are unconstitutional, what does that say about the state Senate district maps? Comparing the congressional map to the state Senate map is not exactly apples to apples, but when the Supreme Court says it has problems with congressional districts jumping bodies of water, one can assume it will think the same about the state Senate map.
Does the ruling affect the Senate president race? Imagine the race for Senate president between Jack Latvala and Joe Negron is a game of Monopoly, one that Latvala is essentially losing because Negron owns the railroads, Boardwalk, Park Place and Marvin Gardens. How does Latvala turn it around? He could have incredible luck and run the table during the next round of state Senate primaries or he can toss up the board to force everyone else to scramble for the thimble.
What does the redistricting ruling say about former House Speaker Will Weatherford’s legacy? As I read the ruling Thursday, I couldn’t help but think of Will Weatherford and how Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente was dismantling part of his legacy. Weatherford and Don Gaetz, chairs of the redistricting committees, went out of their way to avoid injecting partisanship into it. Sure, consultants ended up doing that, but Weatherford took no part. Remember, this congressional map being thrown out led to a handful of Republicans losing in 2014. The state House districts map — the only one Weatherford had complete say-so over and the only one of the three maps not repudiated — drew several GOP incumbents into the same district.
Schorsch is a new media publisher and political consultant based in St. Petersburg. Reporting from Mitch Perry, Matthew Isbell, and The Associated Press contributed to this post. Column courtesy of Context Florida.