The Hillsborough County School Board selected a new electoral map Thursday that was favored by Democrats, over the objections of two Republicans on the seven-member board.
School Board races are supposed to be nonpartisan. But party loyalty was front and center during the board’s recent redistricting discussions, despite statements from both sides about wanting to protect minorities.
The chosen map takes Sun City Center, a predominantly Republican area with larger-than-average voter turnout, out of the district now served by Republican Stacy Hahn. As Hahn’s District 2 also includes the largely Democratic South Tampa, Hahn will have to fight for votes if she chooses to run in 2022 against a Democratic challenger.
So far, no one has filed in District 2.
Board member Karen Perez, who suggested the map that was ultimately approved, has filed for reelection for her countywide seat. She has two challengers so far, Alysha “Aly Marie” Legge and Roshaun Gendrett.
Perez’s fundraising account of $32,325 includes more than $7,500 from the Democratic Party, prominent Democratic politicians and organized labor. Her motion to adopt the new map was seconded by board member Jessica Vaughn, known as a progressive Democrat.
The process of choosing a map led to unpleasant discourse during a redistricting meeting last week, with Hahn, Perez and board chairperson Nadia Combs arguing over who could best represent Hispanic voters and their children.
On that day, five public speakers advocated a map submitted by Hahn, which would keep much of her district intact and give Hispanics 46.6 percent of the vote in Combs’ northwest Hillsborough district.
On Thursday, the opposite happened. Eight speakers turned out, all advocating Perez’s map on grounds that it protects Black voters, Hispanic voters or both.
Vaughn, who is elected in northern Hillsborough’s District 3, added that Hahn’s preferred map “wipes out a lot of the diversity in my district.”
In defense of her map, Hahn said it would have given the seven districts the most even distribution of voters.
Board member Melissa Snively argued that her fast-growing district in East Hillsborough will have a population over time that will exceed the others, which dilutes individual votes. Perez’s map does little to solve that problem, she said, and the maps will likely need to be redrawn again when populations become more imbalanced.
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And, as she has in the past, Snively took issue with the rushed nature of the selection.
“This entire process is flawed, in my opinion, and I wish we had more time,” she said.
The boundary changes take effect immediately.