SPOTLIGHT | FL-10 | FL-2 | FL-26

Courting Trouble in Florida

Nobody has more to lose from Tallahassee's failure to pass a new congressional map than freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL 26).
Mark Wilson AFP/Getty
Aug. 24, 2015, 11:52 a.m.

When Flor­ida’s state House and Sen­ate failed on Fri­day to agree on a new con­gres­sion­al map, it in­jec­ted even more un­cer­tainty in­to an already un­pre­dict­able re­dis­trict­ing pro­cess. Now, a state court gets to draw the lines, and state Re­pub­lic­ans have lost even more con­trol over the pro­cess.

— The court may well just take one of the pro­posed maps that died in the le­gis­lature when the spe­cial ses­sion ended in dis­agree­ment—that’s happened with past court-drawn maps in oth­er states. But it could also take a dif­fer­ent course, and no one has more to worry about than Rep. Car­los Cur­belo (R-26). Cur­belo got a gift in both cham­bers’ pro­posed maps. To make up for a court-man­dated in­flux of Demo­crat­ic voters in Homestead, which had pre­vi­ously been carved out of the 26th Dis­trict, Re­pub­lic­an le­gis­lat­ors re­moved voters from Per­rine, a pre­dom­in­antly Afric­an-Amer­ic­an com­munity where Charlie Crist (D) won about 70 per­cent of the gubernat­ori­al vote last year.

— Demo­crat­ic re­dis­trict­ing con­sult­ant Mat­thew Is­bell es­tim­ates that re­mov­ing Per­rine re­duced Demo­crats’ share of the vote in Cur­belo’s dis­trict by 1.3 per­cent­age points. That’s a big num­ber con­sid­er­ing Cur­belo won his first term by a nar­row three-point mar­gin in a GOP wave year.

— Demo­crats had been up­set with the pro­posed changes to Cur­belo’s dis­trict, which would have gone from a 53% Obama dis­trict to one the pres­id­ent barely car­ried in 2012. But there was noth­ing le­gis­lat­ive Demo­crats could do about it. Now, they can ar­gue be­fore a court that such changes are un­ne­ces­sary to com­ply with the or­der to in­clude Homestead. The court could still use one of the pro­posed maps that helps Cur­belo, or it could not. By put­ting the map­ping pro­cess in the court’s hands, Re­pub­lic­ans gave up the guar­an­tee that Cur­belo would be­ne­fit.

Un­cer­tainty isn’t a neg­at­ive for every­one. In par­tic­u­lar, Reps. Dan Web­ster (R-10) and Gwen Gra­ham (D-02) have noth­ing left to lose after the le­gis­lature was set to draw them in­to un­winnable dis­tricts. But Cur­belo, who rep­res­ents Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­ans’ only cur­rent battle­ground House seat, might have a lot to lose in court.— Jack Fitzpatrick

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