In an unprecedented, unconventional move, the leader of the Sunshine State has presented his own redistricting proposals to the State House and Senate majorities, accusing Republicans of being 'weak', and threatening to veto the fair maps presented by local legislators.
Exception made for money, gerrymandering has always been the greatest of political weapons. By drawing adversaries in more unfavorable seats, this practice permits the ruling party in a certain state to contribute to its chances at power nationwide. Ron DeSantis, who has recently been seen by Republican voters as the most likely alternative to former President Donald Trump, wants to use his popularity within the state to aim at national recognition. To many experts, what DeSantis is trying to do is to take credit of Republican victories in November, a way to launch his possible candidacy for President in 2024.
Through February and early March, the Florida House Redistricting Committee and the Florida Senate Committee on Reapproportionment proposed a total of 18 maps which generally handed a modest advantage to Republicans in the State. The median Republican seats number advantage compared to how they usually fare statewide ranged between R +0.1 and R +3.7, with the lower chamber's plans being the most GOP-favorable.
On the evening of March 4th, 2022, both Republican majorities legislatures had passed a two map congressional plan to send to the Governor's desk for final approval. The plan comprised of two previously proposed House maps, H000C8019 and H000C8015, both with a R +3.7 advantage. While many legislators thought that Governor DeSantis' statements were a pure bluff and that, in the end, he would not have had the courage to send back maps approved by both chambers, the Governor didn't wait a single day to affirm his veto power over the approved maps.
In a press conference, Governor DeSantis essentially claimed that Republicans were losing the redistricting battle nationwide, with Democrats aggressively gerrymandering Illinois and New York, and that Florida needed to stand up and help the GOP win back the House. He also didn't refrain from calling his own party's legislators weak for handing Democrats a very large number of seats that could become decisive in a close election in November.
To display and publicize his intention to make Republicans win in this year's midterm elections, Governor DeSantis decided to directly intervene in the legislatures' redistricting session by proposing his own gerrymandered map. His plan was starkly different from anything Florida legislators had seen up to that moment: P000C0094 aimed at wiping out VRA-protected Florida's 4th district, diluting Democratic vote in the Orlando suburbs, and aggressively gerrymandering Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
While this first proposal was tabled by Florida's chambers, the Governor repeated that he would not, in any case, approve of a 'weak map' and that he would stand on his intention to veto any plan that would reach his desk. One week ago, threatened by DeSantis' growing popularity in and out of Florida, and tired at the prospect of a long litigation, the Republican majorities decided to hand the Governor power over redistricting. They in fact announced that neither the House, nor the Senate, would draw any more maps themselves, and that DeSantis was free to draw alternative pla.
Governor DeSantis, who had finally obtained what he had hoped for, didn't wait long to publish his second, perfected Republican gerrymander of Florida. Likely to pass during the current 19-22 April legislature session, P000C0109 deletes Al Lawson's (D-FL) majority-black district, dilutes Democratic votes all over the state, and hands Republicans a secure majority in the state congressional delegation with a whopping R +20 efficiency gap.
While politically gerrymandered, the map is expected to be held up by the 100% Republican State Supreme Court, which has shown fielty to Governor DeSantis on other matters of controversy.
FL-04 (Al Lawson)
Al Lawson's district, FL's only black-majority area, is gerrymandered into an R +15 seat in the suburbs of Jacksonville. It previously stretched from the blue city of Tallahassee to downtown Jacksonville, capturing Black majority precincts and occupying the state's border with Georgia. This was the focal point of DeSantis' plan, which claimed that FL-04's VRA protection was unlawful and that the district lacked in terms of compactness and fairness. It is now predicted to go Republican, marking a net gain for the GOP in the House of Representatives.
FL-07 (Stephanie Murphy)
This Orlando suburbs district has been gerrymandered from a competitive D +5 seat in a safe Republican R +15 seat. Stephanie Murphy, who has announced her retirement from federal office, now finds herself representing ruby red Volusia county, making it impossible for the next Democratic nominee to win.
FL-09 (Darren Soto)
This Osceola-based district once represented a good pick-up opportunity for the GOP but has recently become more Dem-leaning, with Darren Soto winning by 12 points in 2020. Gov. DeSantis' map uses it to dilute Democratic voters from Murphy's seat and the neighbouring districts, making it easier for Republicans to shore up incumbents and gerrymander adversaries. FL-09's PVI goes from D +4 to D +16.
FL-13 (Charlie Crist)
Florida's 13th Congressional district, a seat covering suburban cities such as St. Petersburg and Clearwater, and currently represented by Fmr. Governor Charlie Crist, shifts eleven points to the right compared to the PVI with the previous borders. Gov. DeSantis' map would make Crist's district R +12, heavily reducing Democrats' chances at holding the seat and marking another net gain for the GOP in the House. With Charlie Crist running in the Dem Primary for Governor in 2022, it becomes even harder for Dems to try and avoid a Republican takeover of these Pinellas suburbs.
MY RATINGS FOR EVERY RACE:
FL-01 (Western Panhandle - Matt Gaetz (R) ) SAFE R
FL-02 (Eastern Panhandle - Neal Dunn (R) ) SAFE R
FL-03 (North Central, Gainesville - Kat Cammack (R) ) SAFE R
FL-04 (Nassau Co., Western Duval - Al Lawson (D) ) SAFE R +1 GOP GAIN
FL-05 (Duval County - John Rutherford (R) ) SAFE R
FL-06 (Putnam, Flagler, St. Johns, Volusia - Mike Waltz (R) ) SAFE R
FL-07 (Seminole, Volusia Co. - Stephanie Murphy (D) ) SAFE R +1 GOP GAIN
FL-08 (Brevard Co. - Bill Posey (R) ) SAFE R
FL-09 (Osceola, Orange - Darren Soto (D) ) SAFE D
FL-10 (Orange, Orlando - Val Demings (D) ) SAFE D
FL-11 (Sumter, Lake - Daniel Webster (R) ) SAFE R
FL-12 (Hernando, Pasco, Citrus - Gus M. Bilirakis (R) ) SAFE R
FL-13 (Pinellas - Charlie Crist (D) ) LIKELY/SAFE R +1 GOP GAIN
FL-14 (Hillsborough, Tampa - Kathy Castor (D) ) LIKELY D
FL-15 (Hillsborough, Polk - Scott Franklin (R) ) LIKELY R
FL-16 (Hillsborough, Manatee - Vern Buchanan (R) ) SAFE R
FL-17 (Sarasota, Charlotte - Greg Steube (R) ) SAFE R
FL-18 (South Central - NEW OPEN) SAFE R +1 GOP GAIN
FL-19 (Lee, Collier - Byron Donalds (R) ) SAFE R
FL-20 (Palm Beach, Broward - Sheila McCormick (D) ) SAFE D
FL-21 (Martin, Palm Beach - Brian Mast (R) ) SAFE R
FL-22 (Palm Beach - Lois Frankel (D) ) SAFE D
FL-23 (Palm Beach, Broward - Ted Deutch (D) ) LIKELY/SAFE D
FL-24 (Miami-Dade - Frederica Wilson (D) ) SAFE D
FL-25 (Broward - Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) ) SAFE D
FL-26 (Collier, Broward, Miami - Mario Diaz-Balart (R) SAFE R
FL-27 (Miami-Dade, S. Miami - Maria Elvira Salazar (R) LIKELY R
FL-28 (Monroe, Miami-Dade - Carlos Gimenez (R) LEAN/LIKELY R
20 predicted Republican seats (+4 GOP GAINS)
8 predicted Democratic seats (-3)
FL's is expected to be the cycle's worst map for Democrats.
This should not be looked at as a simple attempt to fabricate gains for the GOP on the national stage, but as something greater and essential for Ron DeSantis on the long term. We all know that White House hopefuls, during mid-term years, create PACs or SuperPACs in order to help their party win power nationwide and campaign for candidates in competitive seats. Through all of this they gain national relevancy for themselves, air time, endorsements, and, most importantly, donors. Ron DeSantis currently has an incredible momentum within the Republican electorate, a momentum that he should be careful not to waste. Whether President Trump decides to run again or not, Governor DeSantis is building his own base support as a valid, slightly more politically correct, staunchly conservative, electorally viable alternative to the Tycoon. His office of Governor is being used and will be used in the near future to pursue this goal, and redistricting is an example of that. The Sunshine State will probably win the House for the GOP, through one of the most aggressive gerrymanderings of the 2021-2022 season. What we're witnessing is an original way at trying to conquer the trust of the primary electorate, a tactic that might reveal itself incredibly successful giving that poll numbers nationwide show DeSantis as the clear favorite in the case Fmr. President Trump decided against a comeback run.