Senate district map for Pasco draws critics

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Ever since lawmakers in November released proposed new boundaries for the Florida Senate, the way Pasco was divided has produced quiet grumbling, reports Lee Logan.

But those concerns reached a new volume this week when House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford called the map a “head scratcher.”

“It’s still early in the process,” he said Friday. “The House and the Senate still have a long way to go before these things become law. We’ve got time to iron out all the differences.”

Under the proposed Senate map, a half moon-shaped slice lumps Zephyrhills with portions of Trinity and north Tampa. A neighboring district includes west Pasco and Dade City, along with much of Hernando and Sumter counties.

Several Pasco critics point to a July public hearing in Wesley Chapel. Many residents there asked to either keep Pasco whole in the Senate map or to split the county into east and west halves, using the Suncoast Parkway or U.S. 41 as a dividing line.

Some observers say the map benefits incumbent state Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa. His new district would pick up more Pasco voters and would shed some north Tampa areas that might better remember a recent scandal stemming from a $500,000 loan Norman’s wife received from a political supporter.

Federal prosecutors announced last month that they found no evidence Norman broke the law, and he said recently he is “clean as a whistle.”

The map would also put two well-funded hopefuls in another district: term-limited Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, and Trilby egg farmer Wilton Simpson. A first-time candidate, Simpson is currently a constituent of Norman’s. The new district would shed much of east Pasco.

The Senate map wasn’t drawn with those political considerations in mind, argued Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who sits on the Senate redistricting committee.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.