The chairman of the state Senate committee charged with redrawing districts for the 40-member chamber released his proposed draft of the map late Wednesday, as Republican discontent with a plan for whether and when members would have to run for re-election continued to brew. The complicated dance during a special redistricting session highlighted the delicacy of the issue among lawmakers most affected by the process and underscored fissures within the GOP majority over a lingering battle for the Senate presidency following the 2016 elections. The draft proposal released by Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, came after an at-times contentious meeting of Galvano’s committee aimed at finding a way forward with a new map that would satisfy the voter-approved “Fair Districts” amendments, which ban political gerrymandering. The Senate settled a lawsuit with voting-rights organizations after determining it was likely to lose a court battle over the lines.
But Galvano’s plan would ignore at least one of the complaints offered by Democrats and voting-rights organizations by continuing to have a district based in Hillsborough County that reaches across Tampa Bay to grab voters from southern Pinellas County.
Republicans contend maintaining the shape of the district is necessary to allow African-Americans to elect a candidate of their choice; Democrats say the district can achieve the same purpose while being drawn entirely within Hillsborough County.
Under the plan offered by Galvano, the district closely resembling one now held by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would have voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink in 2010 by about 4 percentage points. An alternative map drawn by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, would not cross the bay but would result in a district that went for Obama and Sink by around 13 points.