SPOTLIGHT | FL-2 | FL-26

Curbelo Had Most to Lose—and Lost—in Florida Redistricting

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) attend U.S. Vice President Joe Biden remarks to students at the Miami Dade College on the importance of helping more Americans go to college on Sept. 2, 2015 in Miami, Florida.
Johnny Louis AFP/Getty
Oct. 13, 2015, 11:25 a.m.

A Flor­ida court fi­nally set up new dis­trict lines for the state after a tu­mul­tu­ous sum­mer, and the map looks like bad news for mod­er­ates from both parties. In par­tic­u­lar, Rep. Car­los Cur­belo (R-26) looks like he could be­come col­lat­er­al dam­age of the in­tra-Re­pub­lic­an fight­ing in the Flor­ida state le­gis­lature.

— There was little Flor­ida le­gis­lat­ors could do to pro­tect fel­low Re­pub­lic­an Dav­id Jolly (FL-13) when the state Su­preme Court ordered that his dis­trict had to in­cor­por­ate tens of thou­sands of Demo­crat­ic-lean­ing St. Peters­burg voters, and that was re­flec­ted in the le­gis­lature’s draft map. But the state House and state Sen­ate maps did their best to pro­tect Cur­belo, whose Obama dis­trict ac­tu­ally got slightly more Re­pub­lic­an.

— But the House and Sen­ate couldn’t agree on oth­er is­sues and nev­er ac­tu­ally passed their maps, mean­ing a court got to pick in­stead. And the chosen map turned Cur­belo’s dis­trict from one Obama won with 53% in 2012 to one that the pres­id­ent car­ried with over 55% of the vote. (That’s even more than in Jolly’s dis­trict, where re­dis­trict­ing pushed him to run for Sen­ate in­stead of seek­ing reelec­tion.) Cur­belo has proven to be a strong fun­draiser and cam­paign­er, but just four House Re­pub­lic­ans won dis­tricts that Demo­crat­ic in 2014. And South Flor­ida might be trend­ing Demo­crat­ic any­way: Obama ac­tu­ally im­proved on his 2008 per­form­ance there as he re­gressed in most oth­er places in the coun­try. The state Su­preme Court still has to sign off on this map, but if they do, things could hardly have gone worse for Cur­belo.

— The news is no bet­ter, if maybe more ex­pec­ted, for a Demo­crat in a Rom­ney dis­trict: fresh­man Rep. Gwen Gra­ham (D-02). It’s no sur­prise be­cause the court man­dated a minor­ity-ma­jor­ity dis­trict be drawn between Tal­l­a­hassee and Jack­son­ville, which would ne­ces­sar­ily carve Demo­crat­ic voters out of Gra­ham’s pre­cari­ous seat. She kept up a strong fun­drais­ing pace amid re­dis­trict­ing un­cer­tainty in Q3, but now she’ll have to fig­ure out what her fu­ture should be after win­ning plaudits for her 2014 vic­tory.

With Gra­ham and Cur­belo im­periled and Jolly and Rom­ney-dis­trict Dem Patrick Murphy run­ning for Sen­ate and leav­ing their dis­tricts open, it’s pos­sible that none of the battle­ground dis­trict reps elec­ted in the last three years will still be in Con­gress when 2017 rolls around. There’s noth­ing like re­dis­trict­ing to shake up a del­eg­a­tion.
Scott Bland and Jack Fitzpatrick

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