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  1. Florida Politics

Romano: Proposal for state of South Florida simply mirrors reality

For Alex Sink, the idea arrived four years too late.

In case you missed it, the city of South Miami recently adopted a resolution suggesting Florida be split into two states. Drawing a crooked line from Pinellas to Brevard, the 51st state of South Florida would pretty much keep the largest metro centers from having to associate with more-rural neighbors to the north.

The South Miami commissioners were motivated by the perception that the counties upstate enjoy the benefits of oversized tax revenues from their southern brethren while refusing to acknowledge the dangers climate change poses to South Florida.

The actual idea, of course, is kooky. The sentiment is not.

Forget, for a moment, the climate change debate. Instead, consider the difference in voting patterns. Republicans dominate a huge chunk of Florida's geography, but Democrats control the population centers.

That means, had the state of South Florida actually existed in 2010, its citizens would now be contemplating a second term for Gov. Sink.

Using the 24 counties included in South Miami's official resolution, Sink would have defeated Rick Scott by a rather handy 52.5-47.5 margin.

In that scenario, Pinellas County would have gotten the governor it favored. Hillsborough would have, too. In fact, the six largest counties in the state all favored Sink.

So why did she lose?

Because Scott carried an overwhelming number of less populous markets, often by lopsided margins. In other words, if we had donated Panama City, Keystone Heights and Crestview to Georgia or Alabama, Scott would be someone else's headache.

That same dynamic also plays a part in how Florida can have far more registered Democrats (4.6 million) than Republicans (4.1 million) and still have a Legislature dominated by the GOP.

It wasn't that long ago — 1990 to be precise — that Democrats controlled the House (74-46) and Senate (23-17) by fairly wide margins, and had Lawton Chiles moving into the Governor's Mansion.

Yet by 1996, Republicans had taken over both the Senate and House and have not relinquished control since.

Which brings us back to today with another election looming. And, for the second time since 2010, the possibility of Republicans returning to a supermajority during the next two legislative sessions.

If Ellyn Bogdanoff defeats Maria Sachs in a Palm Beach County race, Republicans will have a 27-13 advantage in the Senate that means they will be able to override any vetoes by the governor.

Republicans could also have a supermajority in the House if they pick up five seats. The GOP has set its sights on seven potential swing districts, including those of Carl Zimmerman, D-Palm Harbor, Mark Danish, D-Tampa, and Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg.

Around here, that means a boatload of people could be feeling a bit disenfranchised come Wednesday. Between Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, there are nearly 3 million people. Based on voter registration statistics, a slight majority (51.7 percent) are Democrats.

Yet it's conceivable this large, mostly moderate market could have a Republican governor, a Republican Cabinet and Republican supermajorities in the Legislature.

Which begs the question: Why split Florida in two?

It seems we're already living in separate states.