Five days before the Florida Legislature returns to Tallahassee to work on redrawing eight congressional district lines, two committees responsible for completing what is known as a “base map” have released it to the public.
It shows that those committees have followed the directions of the Florida Supreme Court, which said in its ruling that eight congressional districts were drawn in violation of the state constitution.
The court ruled that Kathy Castor’s District 14 seat in Hillsborough County should not be expanded across the bay into Pinellas County. That means that Congressional District 13, currently occupied by Republican David Jolly, now includes all of St. Petersburg, a potential treasure trove of additional Democratic voters that in 2016 turn the seat blue for the first time in decades.
As drawn up, Castor’s CD 14 seat’s western edges end literally in Tampa Bay, and would no longer continue into downtown and South St. Petersburg, as is currently the case. It cuts off on Highway 580 on the northwestern side, where Hillsborough Avenue becomes Tampa Bay Road and moves into Pinellas County.
In its ruling last month, the Florida Supreme Court wrote that the trial court that initially heard the case challenging the redrawn districts in 2012 “erred” when it said that it could not conclude “that the decision to incorporate portions of South St. Petersburg into District 14 was done with the intent to benefit the Republican Party or the incumbent member of Congress.” CDs 13 and 14 are two of the eight districts the Legislature has been mandated to redraw.
This is not the final congressional map, but will be the one that lawmakers start out with next week when they convene.
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has indicated that he would run in the newly constructed CD 13 seat if it included where he lives, which is in downtown St. Petersburg. Any doubts that he wanted to make sure he was included in the soon to be drawn up new district were dismissed earlier this week when it was learned that he and his wife Carol have moved to St. Pete Beach, which has always been part of the district.
U.S. Rep. Jolly has announced he will not run for re-election in CD 13 next year, instead opting to run in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
The only declared candidate in the race is 37-year-old Democrat Eric Lynn, a St. Pete native who worked for the Obama administration from 2008-2014 in the Department of Defense.
The special session on congressional redistricting is scheduled to run from August 10-21.