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Census data informs Florida redistricting plans

TALLAHASSEE — U.S. Rep. Jeff Kottkamp? How about U.S. Rep. Paula Dockery?

It looks like the two state-level Republicans live in the perfect spots to take advantage of two congressional seats Florida could gain because of population growth, according to consultants and political maps based on new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The maps, released Thursday by the Legislature, don't spell out the location of the new districts. But the Legislature will decide that next January when it meets to redraw congressional and legislative districts to ensure that politicians represent equal populations.

The redistricting process is the ultimate political game, with lawmakers slicing and dicing portions of the electorate to gain an edge at the ballot box. Complicating the already complicated process: two new voter-approved constitutional amendments aimed at limiting legislators from favoring incumbents or political parties when they redistrict.

The amendments, in conjunction with a new court ruling over minority voting rights, are sure to make for a tough court fight after the Legislature finishes its redistricting work. Regardless of what the courts decide, the entire 160-member Florida Legislature will be up for re-election in 2012, as will each member of Congress.

All of it adds up to a political free-for-all.

In 2012, Florida should have 27 congressional seats — two more than the current number.

A quick gander of the political maps suggests Pinellas and Miami-Dade counties are good bets to lose state House seats. And the Miami-based congressional district held by Republican Rep. David Rivera could get cut at the Collier County line, making the seat a little less Republican, said Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant.

Rivera's district, which is over-populated by nearly 111,000, borders the Fort Myers-based seat held by Rep. Connie Mack, who's mulling a run for U.S. Senate. His seat is overpopulated by about 162,000.

So it's likely, though not guaranteed, that many of those excess Collier and Lee County residents will form the backbone of a new Southwest Florida-based congressional seat, according to Schale.

"The two people who are in the strongest position are Jeff Kottkamp and Paula Dockery," Schale said.

Kottkamp, a former lieutenant governor from Cape Coral, is strongly considering a run. He heavily carried Southwest Florida in his unsuccessful bid for attorney general in 2010.

Neither he nor Dockery, of Lakeland, could be reached.

Dockery's state Senate seat is swelling as is the congressional seat, CD-5, that runs through much of her district. That seat, held by U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent, is the most imbalanced in Florida, overpopulated by 233,000 people.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, might run for a congressional seat. He stepped down from the Senate's redistricting committee because he might run for higher office. He said he'll soon make a decision.

"To say yes or no right now would be premature," Fasano said.

Census data informs Florida redistricting plans 03/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 13, 2011 5:24pm]
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