State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, has remained steadfastly mum about her political plans, but districting maps proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Senate could offer her two different paths toward what supporters and GOP insiders say is her true ambition: running for Congress.
Toledo lives in the Tampa-based congressional district held by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, that is heavily stacked with Democratic voters and was set up in part to make surrounding districts more Republican. Castor hasn’t faced a serious challenge since winning it in 2006.
The plan for new districts proposed by the state Senate would create a new Tampa-based district with a much narrower Democratic advantage.
It would cover northwestern Hillsborough and south Tampa, the home base of both Toledo and Castor, and cross the bay into eastern Pinellas. According to political mapping expert Matthew Isbell, voters there supported Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 52-47 percent.
Toledo, who has run better than Trump in her home base in past elections, may believe she could challenge Castor in that new district.
DeSantis, however, opposes that plan and has proposed two of his own, plans that have drawn controversy because they would eliminate a minority access district in northeast Florida.
In the Tampa Bay area, DeSantis’s most recent proposal, released last week, makes Castor’s district even more Democratic, but would offer Toledo an alternative.
It would set up a new district in northeastern Hillsborough covering eastern Brandon and Plant City and extending into Pasco and Polk counties — territory that voted 51-47 percent for Trump.
Local GOP insiders say Toledo has told friends she intends to run for whatever congressional seat seems feasible and has had discussions with campaign consultants who have congressional experience. Her current, long-time political adviser, Anthony Pedicini, focuses on state legislative races.
As she has several times lately, Toledo didn’t answer voicemail and text messages for comment.