Florida 12th District
The heart of central Florida is Polk County, filled with lakes and small-to-medium-sized cities: Lakeland, Bartow, Lake Wales, Winter Haven, Frostproof, and Haines City. It is the part of Florida most dependent on agriculture. Strawberries, cattle, and citrus are economic mainstays, although periodic freezes in recent years have persuaded some orange growers to move south or to switch to tomatoes. Still, Polk County remained the largest citrus producer in the state in 2007. Turpentine distilleries, dependent on the big stands of pine, and phosphate mining businesses can be found as well. Proportionately, there are more manufacturing jobs here than almost anywhere else in Florida (though still not very many). In 1929, retired Ladies Home Journal Editor Edward Bok built the most prominent landmarks here: the 205-foot-tall gothic Bok Tower and the surrounding Mountain Lake Sanctuary and gardens. A remnant of old Florida, this area has not become a major retiree haven. Its population grew 20% between 2000 and 2007—an impressive rate by national standards but not compared with other parts of Florida.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 12th Congressional District of Florida includes almost all of Polk County, which holds about 60% of the population. This was the home of Spessard Holland and Lawton Chiles, two legendary Democrats who each served as governor and senator. Even today there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, but Polk County, like most of the Deep South, increasingly votes Republican. In the 2006 governor’s race, Republican Charlie Crist won the county with 56% of the vote. The 12th District also includes a sliver of Osceola County and the rapidly growing suburbs east of Tampa in Republican-leaning Hillsborough County—such places as Brandon, home to strip malls and younger, pro-business families. Overall, this district is becoming reliably Republican. It voted 58% for President Bush in 2004. And in the locally hard-fought 2008 campaign, Republican John McCain narrowly beat Democrat Barack Obama 50%-49%.