Wait, is Rick Kriseman running for re-election and is the map of his district better or worse for him?

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As we await the imminent entrance of at least one Republican challenger to Rep. Rick Kriseman (look for South Pasadena Mayor Kathleen Peters to throw her hat into the ring any minute now), we have a moment to parse the tea leaves coming out of Kriseman’s camp.

First of all, there is this message recently posted on Kriseman’s website:

“I do not believe the proposals are constitutional, but if the Florida Supreme Court affirms that Amendments 5 and 6 were followed to the letter and spirit of the law, I will be satisfied with the maps and honored to run for and represent whatever district my home is in. Whether the district leans Democrat or Republican, I am confident that the voters will look past party labels and vote for the person that will best represent them and fight for them day in and day out.”

That sure sounds like Kriseman intends to run again for his House seat!

I wrote recently that the conventional wisdom had been that the Republicans interested in running for this seat would wait to see if Kriseman decided to run for Mayor before jumping in to the race.  But the way the seat is being redrawn — and the absolute dislike for Kriseman in Tallahassee — has turned that conventional wisdom on its head.  Now, it’s a matter of seeing if Kriseman STAYS in the race in the face of a strong challenge.

Of course, if you listen to what’s coming out of the Kriseman camp, it doesn’t sound like he’s too worried.  My wonderful blogging colleague Ben Kirby, with maybe, just maybe, a few words from Krisemen’s legislative aide Kevin King whispered into his ear, offers a retort to my argument:

Rick is from closer to this part of his current district and is more in-line with the new district than the Republican advantage number alone would suggest.  I mean, the guy went to Pasadena Elementary, for crying out loud.  Laugh if you want, but these personal connections to the district add up.  Consider that the new district also encompasses Temple Beth-El, which is just north of Kathleen Peter’s South Pasadena.  It is incredibly important that the place where Kriseman and his family worship would now be encompassed in his district.  I’m not saying the guy will campaign at Temple, but I am saying the folks who come up from Pasadena and St. Petersburg and Gulfport to worship will now see their own Representative, and not the one from the neighboring district.

It gets even better for Kriseman: in 2000, he was appointed to a vacancy on the St. Petersburg City Council in 2000.  He won the seat in an election in 2001, and was reelected in 2003 with more than 76 percent of the vote.  This new district brings in large, active neighborhoods that voted for Rick in the 2001 and 2003 elections.  These are neighborhoods he represented for 6 years.

One of those neighborhoods is the Azalea neighborhood, and Kriseman made a lot of friends there when he went to work trying to get neighborhood polluter Raytheon to do the right thing.

One last quick interesting exercise.  Take another look at what we could call Kriseman’s “new” map, the one for the new District 69.  Now take a look at the precincts which would be contained within that map.

Yes, Kirby is right, those precincts did go narrowly for Barack Obama and Alex Sink, but they also went for Republicans Jeff Atwater, Pam Bondi and Adam Putnam. And Kriseman is an incumbent with two decades of name recognition. But Kriseman also only raised just over seven grand during the last quarter.

Like Kirby, I think it’s still a big “if” whether Kriseman runs for re-election.  And therein lies the point I was really trying to make. Not whether this new district benefits or doesn’t benefit Kriseman, just that the arithmetic has changed and changed enough that the Republicans no longer care if Kriseman plays Hamlet with his decision.

The Republicans are getting into this race & into the one supposedly safe Democrat district in Pinellas County. In fact, by the time you’re done reading this story, one of those Republicans may have already filed to challenge Kriseman.

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.