Unless they move, sitting South Florida senators could face off in November
When Circuit Judge George Reynolds approved a new state senate map last week, lawmakers’ political careers were suddenly thrown into flux. Much of that chaos hit in the middle of Miami-Dade County, where two pairs of sitting senators found themselves living in districts together.
It poses a tough choice: Move, perhaps to a more politically friendly district, or face another well established incumbent in the November election.
Two Miami-Dade lawmakers were much luckier. Sens. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, will run for reelection in very similar districts to those they represent now. However, because of random district numbers drawn Tuesday and the Senate’s staggered terms, both will face term limits two years earlier than they would have under the previous plan.
Perhaps the biggest question mark hangs over Sens. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, who were both drawn into District 40 near Kendall.
Most of Bullard’s current district lies to the south and west, stretching down to the Keys and in the expanses of western Miami-Dade County. Either could be a good place for Bullard — a household name in the area after his mother, Larcenia Bullard, spent 20 years in the Legislature — to run. Both districts voted for Barack Obama in 2012.
But District 40 is heavily Hispanic, and that could offer an in for Flores.
Bullard said Tuesday that he hasn’t yet decided where he will run. He hopes “diplomacy” can be used to avert a full-on collision with Flores.
“Flores needs to decide what is better suited for her,” he said.
If Flores moves, it’d only be for a two-year stint before she would face term limits. But she is close with Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the next Senate president, and is a likely pick for a top spot in the chamber’s leadership.
On the county’s Atlantic coast, it’s likely a showdown between Sens. Gwen Margolis, D-Coconut Grove, and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, could be averted by a convenient move.
The map approved by Reynolds put both senators in District 37, the area around the city of Miami. It’s territory Diaz de la Portilla and his relatives have won for years, but it also favors Democrats during presidential elections.
But just to the north lies District 38, stretching from Miami Beach to Aventura, a lock for virtually any Democrat and especially for Margolis, who has represented the region for decades.
Would she move, though, for just two years in office? Margolis didn’t return Times/Herald calls for comment.
Still, it sounds like she might. Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, plans to run for that seat as soon as Margolis is done in the Legislature. And he doesn’t plan on running in 2016.
“The senator has told me she is going to run for reelection in that seat, that she is moving from Coconut Grove and she is going to move up into the district,” he said.