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  1. Florida Politics

William March: Would Census citizenship question cost local Democrats a House seat?

Immigration activists rally outside the Supreme Court in April as the justices heard arguments over the Trump administration’s plan to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census. Critics say the citizenship question on the census will inhibit responses from immigrant-heavy communities. [Associated Press | J. Scott Applewhite]
Published Jul. 10

Florida has been projected to gain two members of Congress after the 2020 Census because of population growth, but a study by Harvard University researchers suggests that a citizenship question on the Census could undercut that chance.

Florida Republican leaders are backing the citizenship question, even though the result could be an undercount in Florida, and less federal clout and money for the state.

Nationwide, an undercount of Hispanics could lead to fewer Democratic members of Congress.

In Florida, it could also dash hopes by Tampa area Democrats that the ripple effect of two new districts could put a new Democratic House member here.

It's feared that a citizenship question would make some Hispanics reluctant to fill out and return the Census forms.

A study by Harvard's Shorenstein Center, based on previous Census-related surveys, estimated it could lead to as many as one in 12 Hispanics declining to complete the forms.

The most heavily affected states would be Arizona and California, the study says, but Florida has a potential undercount of 2.7 percent of the population, or about 600,000 people — not far from the equivalent of an average congressional district as of 2017, about 750,000.

Florida's senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, both Republicans, have sided with President Donald Trump on the citizenship question.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis says he's neutral. But this year, Florida apparently won't have a state-level Complete Count Committee, as it has for the last two censuses, to publicize and promote a full count.

Florida now has 27 congressional districts. Based on population growth, one new district could go in the heavily Hispanic Orlando area and one in southwest Florida.

Local Democratic Chairman Ione Townsend hopes a new Orlando-area district would squeeze neighboring districts west, creating a second district entirely within Hillsborough, where Democrats have been growing in voting power.

That's at best uncertain. Political data wizard Matthew Isbell said where the lines could go is unpredictable, and noted that Republicans are still likely to have majorities in the Legislature to control drawing district lines after the 2020 Census.

The Trump administration is so far losing a legal battle to include the question on the Census, but President Donald Trump says he intends to press forward, and would consider adding the question by executive order.

In comments to reporters last week, he acknowledged that he wants the question on the Census to affect congressional districting, even though the Constitution says the Census and the districts are supposed to be based on total population.

"Number one, you need it for Congress — you need it for Congress for districting," Trump told reporters.

Owen leads in D59 money race

Republican Michael Owen, a lawyer in Brandon and south Tampa, has started fast in fundraising for what's expected to be a highly competitive District 59 state House race.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Adam Hattersley, meanwhile, is holding back on fundraising while he considers jumping into a congressional race.

Owen has reported raising $55,974 since he filed May 14, including $16,500 from himself and his businesses.

His opponent in the GOP primary, Melissa Haskins, reported raising $10,360 since filing May 1, including a $5,000 loan from herself.

Hattersley captured the traditionally Republican Brandon state House seat in 2018.

Republicans are eager to win it back, but Hattersley is considering running against U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, instead of running for re-election. Because of federal and state fundraising restrictions differ, he wouldn't be able to transfer money raised for a state House into a congressional race.

Owen currently resides in South Tampa, where he has a law office, but says he has long lived in Brandon and that's where his roots are.

He also has office and residential properties in the east Hillsborough district, and says residence won't be an issue. He would have to live in the district on taking office.

Castor joins equal pay fray

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, has jumped into the fray over pay for the U.S. women's national soccer team, which just won its second consecutive World Cup.

In a letter last week to U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro, Castor said the women's team has been more successful than the men's team and produces more revenue, but the players are paid less.

She noted the women's team has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

"What more will it take for our players to receive the recognition and compensation they deserve?" she wrote.

Castor is one of four co-chairs of the Congressional Soccer Caucus, whose members also include Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Donna Shalala, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schulz. Two of the women's national team players, Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris, live in Florida.

U.S. Soccer denies discriminating. It has responded to the lawsuit saying the pay difference is based on "aggregate revenue" including sponsorships, and that the women's team's compensation is based on a two-year-old collective bargaining agreement.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.

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