While the GOP continues to argue in public and in court that their Senate redistricting plan had no political motivations, the map does not lie.
Alachua to Clay: District 7
Placing all of Clay County in a district with all of Alachua County is a political trick by the GOP. The new Senate District 7 could deny Alachua County a resident Senator for the first time in recent memory and create a district where the interests of North Central Florida are sacrificed. Placing Clay in a district with Alachua essentially prevents a Democratic district from being created in the area. Clay County, as it has been for years, should be linked legislatively with the Jacksonville area where it shares a community of interest and a metropolitan area. The tricky thing here is that this district looks reasonably compact on a map but is in fact creating a district that overlaps multiple metropolitan areas and communities of interest. Clay County and Alachua County are also diametrically opposite politically.
Could Volusia County Be Left Without A Resident Senator?
With a half million residents, Democratic leaning Volusia County has had a resident Senator since before the 1968 Florida Constitution reformed the State Senate. For the past decade the county has been represented by moderate Republican Evelyn Lynn. While the majority of the population in the new District 8 resides in Volusia County, it has been clearly drawn with the intent of taking in Marion County Republicans and possibly being accessible for an Ocala based Republican to run and win in. Volusia has been split strategically in such a way that it could be represented by Republicans from St John’s County and from Marion County in the Senate.
This repeats the pattern in Central Florida where large, populated portions of Paula Dockery’s district, including most of Lakeland, have been put into a district that will presumably be represented by Orlando-based Andy Gardiner. This district is the biggest disgrace of the entire redistricting process and that is saying a great deal given some of the issues in other parts of the state. Linking parts of Orlando with Lakeland in a district HAS NEVER PREVIOUSLY BEEN DONE POST THE 1968 CONSTITUTION. This is especially galling when the robust population growth of the area is considered. This district has been clearly drawn to try and extend Gardiner’s career. It is also possible the new Senate District 21 will elect someone from outside Polk County, although that district is similar to a district that has been around since the 1982 reapportionment. This district is important as Agriculture, the second largest component of Florida’s economy is often championed by whomever is in this particular seat.
The county, which is a bellwether for statewide elections in Florida, is split in a way where the county may not have a resident senator despite incredible growth. Districts 17 & 18 split Pasco County. Admittedly, Pasco could end up at some point with two resident senators so the plan is unlikely to be rejected based on this district.