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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some Things to Look in the New Congressional Districts

Right now, Tampa Bay (by which I mean Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties) is basically represented by the 9th, 10th, 11th, and a even a tiny fraction of the 12th Congressional Districts.

If the new redistricting amendments are followed (and even thought they passed overwhelmingly, Haridopolos is determined to circumvent the law, if he can), there will be some changes in the makeup of these seats.

I have heard nothing that leads me to believe that Tampa Bay has grown enough to warrant receiving one of Florida's two new congressional seats, so it will all be about re-arranging the chairs.

In order to comply with the new rules, the 10th district, represented for the past forty years by Bill Young, will have to change. Right now, it is the entirety of South Pinellas, except for a small chunk in Gulfport and South St. Pete. Then it snakes over to take some suburban communities outside of Tampa.

For me, I don't see any reading of the new constitutional amendment that would allow that. In the past, to preserve the 10th for Republicans when Young retires (and the man has been taking a gov't paycheck and healthcare for 2/3 of his working life now), they cut out African-American communities north of 22nd Ave in Gulfport and in South St. Pete and gave those to the already staunchly Democratic 11th District, based in Tampa. In return, Young was handed some "white flight" communities outside of Tampa.

Any reasonable, non-partisan redistricting would make this seat wholly within Pinellas and take everything in the county, starting from somewhere aroud Clearwater - though I couldn't say for certain whether it would include Clearwater or begin just south of that city.

The 9th would not be allowed to take the unnatural, wriggly form it now does. My first thought is to say that it loses all that space out towards Plant City, but that a lot of that is made up by the extra votes it gets from Pinellas (I see Palm Harbor and Dunedin and maybe even Clearwater being fully within the 9th). In order to make it compact, I would guess it travels north, rather spiraling east towards Polk.

The 11th would take some Hillsborough precincts currently within the 9th and 12th and would, as I said earlier, lose all attachment to Pinellas. The 12th, I envision as no longer including any precincts in Tamp Bay.

If I'm right, what does that mean?

The 9th becomes a little more competitive, but still trends Republican. If Bilirakis continues to keep a low profile and maintain his reputation for not being a leader on anything important or controversial, I don't see much reason to suspect that he won't hold that seat for at least as long as his father did. If he retires or does something visibly stupid or impolitic, the right candidate could topple him, but that would most likely be someone who held county or state office, because the municipalities in the district just aren't high profile enough to generate someone with a high enough profile.

The 10th becomes what it has been for years - a Bill Young's sinecure. However, the seat has always been 50/50 in most respects, with a Democratic registration advantage. That advantage will only grow stronger with the changes. When Young's time run out, neither Karen Seel nor Bill Foster will have it as easy as Young has had it.

Likewise, the solidly Democratic 11th becomes more competitive. You would expect Kathy Castor to hold the seat, nonetheless, but she will have to work harder. And when she takes the plunge and runs for statewide office, the general election will be almost as bloody as the primary, because the GOP will see a slim opportunity for a pick up.

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