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DeSantis map could affect Tampa Bay congressional seats

Both are currently held by Democrats. Under the redistricting plan, one would swing decidedly in favor of Republican voters.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, left, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, left, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. [ Times ]
Published Jan. 22

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s surprise congressional redistricting map proposal, if adopted, would have a dramatic effect on the Tampa and south Pinellas districts of Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg.

According to an analysis by Democratic political mapping expert Matt Isbell, the proposal likely would flip the Pinellas district from a narrowly Democratic-voting district to a strongly Republican voting one, while packing more Democrats into Castor’s already Democrat-dominated district.

It would do that in part by extending Castor’s district across the bay to take in heavily Democratic-voting areas of south and downtown St. Petersburg now in the Crist district.

Isbell called that “a classic gerrymandering move, making Castor’s seat a Democratic vote sink to leave the surrounding districts more Republican.”

The current Crist district voted 51-47 percent for Joe Biden in 2020; under Desantis’s plan it would cover areas that voted 54-45 for Trump.

Castor’s district would go from 53-45 percent Biden to 61-38 percent Biden.

Castor’s district previously crossed the bay into south Pinellas for years, taking in big swathes of Black voters, until a lawsuit over the 2010 redistricting by advocates of the Fair Districts Amendment forced a change. That lawsuit revealed improper use by the Legislature of maps created by GOP political operatives.

Democrats have feared that legislative Republicans would seek a similar plan this year, considering that the state Supreme Court, now including several DeSantis appointees, might be more amenable.

Still, the fate of DeSantis’s proposal remains uncertain.

The state Senate this week passed passed a congressional map proposal that makes comparatively small changes in the two districts. Senate President Wilton Simpson, running for agriculture commissioner, hopes to avoid the legal tangle created by the 2010 maps.

But DeSantis has the authority to veto the congressional plan that eventually will be passed by the Legislature.

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