Florida 24th District
In 1960, central Florida was a sleepy place. Orlando was a small city surrounded by citrus groves. The Atlantic coast from Cape Canaveral north was a quiet winter-vacation spot, with small motels lining U.S. 1 and the beach. Then two outsiders—President John F. Kennedy and Walt Disney—transformed this part of America, making it in two different ways a leader in the world. Kennedy promised in 1961 to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, and the Kennedy Space Center was built on an island near Cape Canaveral. The Space Coast was created. In 1971, Disney opened Disney World southwest of Orlando, near the intersection of Interstate 4 and Florida’s turnpike. Other theme parks followed, and metro Orlando became the nation’s No. 1 tourist destination. In the process, the populations of metro Orlando and the Space Coast have more than quadrupled since 1960. People from all over the United States, and more recently, immigrants from Latin America, have come in large numbers; with the aid of ubiquitous air conditioning, they have transformed sleepy backwaters into vibrant metropolitan areas. This part of Florida has attracted many more young families and people in their working years than retirees. With a diversified economy—“Innovation Way,” a high-tech corridor, is being built between the airport and the University of Central Florida, and the university is opening a medical school—and continuing tourism, metro Orlando has been hit less hard by the recession than other parts of Florida. But Brevard County’s economy has been lagging, and the shutdown of the Space Shuttle, scheduled for 2010, threatens up to 4,500 jobs.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 24th Congressional District of Florida has about half its population in the Orlando area, much of it in affluent Orange and Seminole county suburbs north and northeast of Orlando. It takes in all of Oviedo and parts of Maitland and Altamonte Springs. The other half of the district is on the coast. The 24th covers nearly 80 miles of coastline and encompasses the northern half of Brevard County, including the main grounds of the Space Center, the Canaveral National Seashore, and the county seat of Titusville. The 24th also takes in the southern half of Volusia County, including part of Daytona Beach, where NASCAR is a big employer. Also in the district is New Smyrna Beach, founded as a colony by Andrew Turnbull, a Scotch doctor, where you can see the ruins of an 1820s sugar mill. The 24th is as close as Florida gets to a typical suburban district. There are higher than average numbers of homeowners, families with children, working women, and white-collar employees. This was designed by Republican legislators to be a Republican district, but after voting 55% for George W. Bush in 2004, it voted only 51% for John McCain in 2008.