Thomas Tryon: “The news from Florida in 2012 will be full of surprises — sensational trials that haven’t even been placed on judicial dockets, exposes of celebrities who have yet to expose themselves, weird occurrences, unnaturally intense natural disasters and genuinely unexpected events.”
Florida will leap right into national prominence this month, when the Legislature opens its annual session — earlier than the usual spring opening — on Jan. 10. Besides passing a budget, the Legislature’s priority will be drawing the boundaries of state Senate and House, and congressional districts. Reapportionment, as the process is known, is always contentious but a pair of factors — Florida’s gain of two congressional seats and the first-time application of two constitutional amendments governing redistricting — will raise the stakes and intensify the scrutiny beyond the norm.
What’s more, the likely legal challenges of the Legislature’s redrawn maps will add to confusion over which candidates will run for which offices — and where.
“Maneuvering over reapportionment will commence from the outset of the legislative session — actually, it’s been going on for months — but resolution of redistricting will be pre-empted by the Jan. 31 presidential-preference primary for Republicans.”
Florida will be the third state — and the first populous one — to conduct a presidential primary following the Iowa caucuses Tuesday (yes, this Tuesday, which is also the last day to register to vote in Florida’s presidential primary).
Since there is no single front-runner among the nine Republican candidates on the ballot in Florida (can anyone name all of them without cheating?) and the outcome of voting in our state is pivotal, the campaigns and candidates with a chance to win will blanket the state.
It will be a spectacle, at the least, with the aftermath and analysis carrying us well into February — as the Legislature continues its session.
The Legislature’s deadline for producing the maps of reapportioned districts is March 9 — although approval might require a special session later in the month.
“Starting April 16, candidates for judicial offices, state attorney and public defender begin the official qualifying process. … May is likely to be crunch time for completion of reapportionment, including reviews by the state Supreme Court and U.S. Justice Department.”
In June, the festivities will take on a new sense of urgency and, barring some sort of disaster or court intervention (remember, this is Florida; anything is possible), many of the races will materialize. For a week — starting June 4 — federal, statewide, multi-county, county and district candidates must file their final papers for qualifying to run.
We’ll find out then which incumbents will be unchallenged and which will face opposition; we’ll also learn the matchups of the candidates for open seats.
Following the filing dates, candidates with partisan opposition will make a two-month sprint toward the Aug. 14 primaries.
Statewide, the most-watched race will be the Republican primary to select the candidate who will challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November. This year, some of the primaries for legislative seats could be intriguing if, because of redistricting, sitting legislators run against each other.