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Fla. Congressional Delegation Upheaval 07/28 06:20

   TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential 
ambitions and a court ruling tossing out several congressional district maps 
will cause upheaval among Florida's representation in Washington, including 
political complications for a congresswoman considered one of the state's few 
Democratic stars.

   At least four and potentially five members of Congress are leaving to pursue 
the seat Rubio is giving up after one term, and the Legislature will begin a 
court-ordered special session next month to draw new maps that could affect 
most of Florida's congressional districts.

   "I don't think either party comes out way on top," said Screven Watson, a 
Democratic consultant and former executive director of the Florida Democratic 
Party. "It's a shift in representation. You're going to lose a D seat here, 
you're going to gain an R seat here, but you're going to look up and see a 
bunch of new people."

   Eight of Florida's 27 districts have to be redrawn. But nearly all the 
state's districts could change to fix the eight that violate Florida's 
constitution. The biggest loser could be freshman Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham, 
who is considered a rising star for her party and is the daughter of former 
governor and former Sen. Bob Graham. The biggest winner could be former Gov. 
Charlie Crist, who wants to revive his political career by running for Congress.

   The Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that Republican legislative 
leaders worked with political operatives to create maps that benefited their 
party, and that violates a 2010 voter-approved constitutional amendment 
requiring compact districts that don't benefit incumbents or political parties.

   Even before the court's decision, Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis and 
Democratic Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy said they would seek Rubio's 
seat. After the ruling, Republican Rep. David Jolly also jumped into the Senate 
race; the court suggested that a heavily Democratic portion of St. Petersburg 
be added to his district. Republican Congressman Jeff Miller also is 
considering a Senate run.

   "We're going to see a lot of new blood," said Evan Power, chairman of the 
Leon County Republican Party. "You're going to get a much less 
Washington-centric congressional delegation with people less experienced in DC, 
which might not be bad for people as a whole."

   When Jolly jumped into the Senate race, Democrat Crist said he would run for 
the seat if the Legislature draws the district as the court suggested. Crist 
served one term as a Republican governor before running for Senate as an 
independent in 2010 and for governor as a Democrat in 2014, losing both 
contests. The new maps could give Crist a chance to become politically relevant 
again.

   Simply reconfiguring Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown's district, which runs 
from Jacksonville south to Orlando, will affect at least seven other districts 
if the Legislature follows the court's suggestion to have it run west instead 
of south. That means a large chunk of Democratic voters will probably be taken 
from Graham's district.

   That could force a difficult choice: Graham could seek re-election in a 
Republican heavy district; challenge Brown, who's been in Congress 22 years; 
run for Senate next year; or begin a 2018 campaign for governor. She's not 
talking about any of those options.

   "It's still unclear how this ruling may change maps, but it doesn't change 
my job or why I was elected to Congress," Graham said in a statement.

   Cutting off the southern end of Brown's district also could make it more 
difficult for other incumbents seeking re-election as more Democratic voters 
are added to districts, including those of Republican Reps. Dan Webster and 
John Mica.

   And changes ordered in five South Florida Districts could put Democratic 
Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel in the same district, which could force a 
primary.

   Freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo could find himself in a more 
competitive district in a seat that's seemingly jinxed. He is the fourth person 
to hold the seat since 2010 after Republican David Rivera and Democrat Joe 
Garcia were voted out after one term. He's being challenged by Annette Taddeo, 
who was Crist's running mate for governor last year.


(KA)


 
 
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