Legg says he won't challenge Simpson in Pasco if Senate presidency on the line
With a new court-approved redistricting map scrambling Pasco County into three different state senate districts, Sens John Legg and Wilton Simpson - both Pasco Republicans - suddenly have the possibility of fighting over the same territory for their political lives. Both Legg, of Trinity, and Simpson, of Trilby, have been drawn into what would be the new District 11, running from central and northeastern Pasco to Hernando and Citrus counties.
“I have no desire to run against Wilton, but we’ll look at how it all shakes out,” Legg said.
Legg said he’s already raised $200,000 for his re-election and collected petitions to get on the ballot. He said he has every intention of running for re-election in his present district. But that intention has one key limit.
“It is more important to have a Senate President from our area than my own political future,” Legg said.
Legg is referring to the fact that Simpson is in line to become the Senate President for the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, if Republicans still hold the majority of seats. Legg said he would not challenge Simpson if he still can become Senate President. But whether Simpson gets a shot at being president could hinge on a lottery drawing that is expected to take place next week.
In order to comply with a new court-approved redistricting plan, legislators have to hold a lottery to randomly assign numbers to each of the districts. That may sound mundane, but it will have big implications for Simpson depending on whether he gets an even numbered district or an odd numbered district.
All senate districts will have to be up for re-election in 2016 because of the new redistricting, instead of just the 20 odd numbered districts as normally would be up in 2016. But a senator in a district that is randomly assigned an odd number will get a four-year term if they win in 2016, while those who draw an even number will get a two-year term, and then have to seek a new four-year term in 2018.
For Simpson, who was first elected in 2012, drawing an odd numbered district where he lives now would mean he could seek re-election in 2016, but in 2020 would have served 8 full years - the maximum allowed by term limits. He’d be barred from seeking re-election for the 2021 session when he would have been in line to become the Senate president. If he draws and even district, he would run in 2016 and get a two-year term. Then because he will have only served 6 years as of 2018, he’d be allowed to run for another four-year term that would take him through 2022, allowing him to serve as president of the Senate in 2021 and 2022.
In short, Legg won’t take on Simpson if the district they both reside in gets an even number. But if it gets an odd number and the Senate presidency is no longer in play, Legg said it would “change a lot of dynamics.”
Further complicating it all is what happens to a neighboring district adopted by the court that would include part of Pasco (including Zephyrhills, Wesley Chapel and Dade City), but has no incumbent as it is now drawn. If that district - now listed as the 18th - draws an even numbered district, Simpson could move about seven miles south along Interstate 75 and run in that seat if his current home district is stuck with an odd number.
But that district could also draw competition from Hillsborough County. It could quickly become the best district for Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, to run in if he wants to stay in the Senate because of how eastern Hillsborough County was split.