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Compact districts in Florida could lead to gains

An overwhelming 63 percent of Florida voters in November voted for a "Fair Districts" initiative aimed at curbing partisan gerrymandering of congressional and legislative political districts.

A legal challenge is pending, and Gov. Rick Scott is aggressively working to avoid implementing the measure. So what would be the practical effect of requiring compact districts that don't favor incumbents? Certainly no Democratic tidal wave, but some likely gains.

State Democratic chairman Rod Smith estimates that there are currently four state Senate seats where both Democrats and Republicans have a shot at winning and fewer than 25 competitive state House districts. Those numbers would double with the new system, Smith estimates.

Political analyst Charlie Cooke looked at the congressional districts in the National Journal and concluded that Democrats, who now hold just six of Florida's 25 districts, could wind up with as many as 10 to 13 safe seats out of 27. That would require dismantling the snakelike district that runs from Jacksonville to Orlando and represented by Democrat Corrine Brown, making one Jacksonville-area district Democratic and adding two Democratic districts in the Orlando area.

Lots of friends

Yes, there are solid reasons for George LeMieux, Connie Mack, Adam Hasner, Nick Loeb and company to be very afraid of Mike Haridopolos' Senate campaign. During a single event at Orlando's airport earlier this month, the Florida Senate president raised about $1 million. Legislative leadership clearly has its advantages, as lobbyists flew in with $10,000 in checks.

"When you have the relationships that I built up over the last 11 years, I don't have to spend hours on the phone convincing people who I am. … I've got a lot of friends,'' said the Merritt Island Republican.

Primary change?

Sorry, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus. It looks more and more like Florida Republicans will ignore your insistence that Florida move its 2012 presidential primary to March or later.

Gov. Scott says he wants to comply with the rules and not be penalized by losing delegates, but Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon are intent on Florida maintaining its major role in picking a nominee. The primary could shift from January to February, but March looks unlikely.

"I am very reluctant to move it. I think Florida as the soon-to-be third-most populous state in the country belongs at the front end of that national dialogue," Cannon said last week.

Rubio brings in well-known strategist

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has hired a well-known political strategist in South Carolina as his deputy chief of staff. Terry Sullivan helped engineer then-Rep. Jim DeMint's successful campaign for the Senate and he ran Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in South Carolina in 2008.

Sullivan's role underscores Rubio's star power. Part of his job will be to strategically help handle the volume of media, speaking and endorsement requests as well as to work on Rubio's message.

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com.

Winner

of the week

Al Cardenas. The former Florida GOP chairman was elected chairman of the American Conservative Union, succeeding David Keene, who had held the post since in 1984. At the group's Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, Cardenas even received an enthusiastic video introduction from a longtime friend, Sen. Marco Rubio, despite having endorsed Charlie Crist for the Senate.

Loser

of the week

Florida's teachers unions. With so few allies in power left in Tallahassee, ending teacher tenure and enacting merit pay looks inevitable this year in the Legislature. And get this number from a newly released Florida Chamber of Commerce poll by Cherry Communications: More than 68 percent of registered voters — including 58 percent of Democrats — believe "teacher unions are looking out mainly for themselves and their union members instead of the best interest of our children's education."

Compact districts in Florida could lead to gains 02/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 12, 2011 7:00pm]

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