After session filled with Frankenstein maps, Senate Republicans piece together new leadership team

John Kennedy | Palm Beach Post | 11/06/2015

For Florida Republican senators. the special session on redistricting dissolved in bickering over a map — but there also was a big moment of unity.

Shortly before the plan for new Senate boundaries was voted down, a political marriage was announced: Two GOP rivals for the Senate presidency, Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart, whose district includes northern Palm Beach County, and Cleawater Sen. Jack Latvala, had cut a deal.

Negron was endorsed by Latvala for the Senate presidency next year — and Latvala was handed the coveted post of budget chairman in the administration poised to take over next November.

“We want to start rowing in the same direction,” Latvala said.

No longer will the two rivals and their respective allies be sniping at each other. And no longer will the pair be recruiting Republican primary rivals to run against each other, with each man hoping to gain a new pledge in the presidency contest.

But the union also is born of expediency. And Senate boundaries may be the shotgun that brought this couple together.

With the courts now taking over Senate redistricting, there’s a good chance that the

Republicans’ 26-14-seat advantage over Democrats in the chamber will narrow.

Helped by court-drawn boundaries that could prove more balanced, Democratic leaders are predicting that after next year’s elections, Republican dominance could fall to 23-17 or 22-18 in seats.

That’s still a GOP edge, but one that’s close enough for the minority party to occasionally exert control over issues and have a loud voice on policy.

The last thing the GOP needed facing that kind of political reality was a fractious caucus of its own.

Instead, what it now has is a leadership team headed by two very different politicians.

Negron is staunchly conservative, a measured lawyer in speech and in policy matters; Latvala, a moderate, with a long history in the Senate, is prone to angry and moody blowups over many issues.

Negron now also could be forced to make a quiet apology to one of his early supporters who may have had eyes on that budget chairmanship. Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, is seen by many as the likely loser of that coveted role handed to Latvala as a peace offering.

The Negron-Latvala union was a strange end to an equally strange special session.

It was one where maps of proposed Senate boundaries were floated, and when they drew resistance, leaders would make fixes, sometimes by linking parts of other maps to them in hopes of gaining support.

Such mash-ups became known as Frankenstein maps. And in the end, the Negron-Latvala deal could create something of a Frankenstein Senate presidency.

“I’m very comfortable with where we are,” Negron said. “I believe there will be lots of opportunities for everyone in the Senate to have their voices heard.”

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