Questions emerge about changes behind House map; Latvala sees revenge
As House members convene to discuss proposed changes to a Senate redistricting map this afternoon, questions are emerging about what was the intent behind the changes.
In the House's proposed Duval County-based African American minority access district, for example, the black voter registration is dropped below any level previously proposed in a base map drawn by House and Senate staff and the new district is so heavily Republican it would have elected Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in 2010, in a three-way race that included former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, an African American.
"I can't wait to hear the explanation,'' said Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat who now holds the seat. "It's comical and certainly unnecessary,'' she said.
Her current district includes a black voting age population of 43 percent and the proposed Senate map, and similar proposal by the redistricting challengers, lowered that to 42.7 percent but under the map proposed by House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, the percentage drops to 41 percent.
"I’m not sure what the overall strategy is there,'' Gibson told the Herald/Times. "Is his intention to have two Republicans represent Duval in the way he has it drawn? But every time you chip away you chip away at the ability of minorities to elect a candidate of your choice."
In other parts of the map, questions are raised about why changes were made. In the House's proposed Senate District 1, now held by Sen. Greg Evers, a Republican, his tiny hometown of Baker is cut in half and put into a district with Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. Gaetz is term limited out and his son, Matt, is running for his seat in a tough primary.
Evers, by the way, was among a handful of Republicans who voted against the Senate map last week when it passed the chamber. He is a supporter of Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who is facing off against Sen. Joe Negron for the Senate presidency, whom House leaders quietly prefer.
In Pasco County, Sen. John Legg, R-New Port Richey, is merged into the same district as Latvala, unlike any other previously proposed map.
Latvala sees revenge in the House's actions.
"There is no doubt in my mind they are not happy with me because I spoke my mind about the process and because they don't want me to be Senate president,'' he told the Herald/Times on Monday. "This is being done by the same people who talked about rejecting the Senate changes to the congressional map because it wasn't the base map. Here, they have made changes for some very shaky reasons."
Unlike the Senate, which has reported that it recorded all conversations between staff and legislators about proposed changes to the base maps, the House has not kept recordings.
"We agreed to the recordings of the initial base map drawings because they were hosted by the Senate,'' said Michael Williams, House spokesman. But when it came time to make changes to those maps, "there were not recordings."