Some Senators Facing Tough Political Choices
Around the State
With the new Senate maps expected to easily pass the House next week, lawmakers in the upper chamber and potential candidates for those seats are beginning to evaluate their electoral futures.
For a few, the decisions are where and whether to run for another term. And at least one legislative leader is already openly pondering whether to serve out the four-year term he would be awarded by the literal bounce of the ping-pong ball.
Much of the soul-searching would have been avoided under the first Senate plan, which critics said did not pair any incumbents and left everyone with a clear seat drawn for them. Things are not as clear the second time around.
Perhaps the most intense decisions will be made by those lawmakers who are facing decisions based on the districts they were drawn into or out of. For example, Sen. David Simmons of Maitland said he will relocate after being drawn into the same district with fellow Republican Andy Gardiner of Orlando, slated to become Senate president in 2014.
"I will move back to Seminole County," Simmons said.
The freshman senator noted that he lived in Seminole for more than 15 years, moving to Maitland about six years ago, and owns several residences.
Almost 65 percent of the new District 10 -- which includes all of Seminole County -- is currently in Simmons' District 22.
A tougher decision might be ahead for Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton. Despite media reports to the contrary, Sachs apparently lives in the new District 25. That places her just outside of the reconfigured District 34, which includes Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale and contains about 40 percent of Sachs' current district.
Both of the new districts are staunchly Democratic, but running in District 25 could spark a contested primary between Sachs and Rep. Joe Abruzzo, a Wellington Democrat who is expected to run in that district.
"What we all need to do is we need to just hold the powder and see exactly how the lines are drawn by the court -- if they are going to confirm our lines or draw their own," Sachs said after the Senate wrapped up its end of the redistricting process.
She sidestepped a question on whether she would run against a fellow Democrat, saying she would decide where to make her bid after doing a statistical analysis of the new districts.
"I will run," she said. "I'm going to fight for the people in Broward and in Palm Beach."
Other lawmakers face different questions. Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, would be allowed to hold onto his seat until 2016 under the current map -- two years after his term as Senate president would come to an end. That's because he was assigned an odd number in the raffle the Senate Reapportionment Committee held to decide which lawmakers would get two-year terms and which would get four years.
Gaetz said he hasn't decided whether to stay on after his leadership role comes to an end.
"That's probably more in the hands of Vicky Gaetz than Don Gaetz," he said. "We had not really made plans beyond the Senate presidency if I'm fortunate enough to serve."
He also noted that the maps and the new numbering system have to be approved by the Florida Supreme Court, which scrapped the old numbering system for favoring incumbents.
"I'm not going to do any long-term leases in Tallahassee," he added.
Of course, all the questions revolve around the Supreme Court's approval and the House being willing to go along with the Senate plan. Already, there are some signs of disquiet over the measure.
Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican who fought for a fourth strongly Hispanic district in Miami-Dade County, said some House lawmakers might continue his fight.
House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, said he believed the Senate made a mistake by not drawing the fourth district. He noted that there are 1.6 million Hispanics in Miami-Dade County according to the 2010 Census, and an ideal Senate district includes about 470,000 people -- meaning that three districts filled with nothing but Hispanics could be drawn with a significant number still left over.
But Lopez-Cantera said he has to study the issue further and it is "too soon to say yet" whether he will try to amend the plan.
"On the surface, I am not pleased with the Senate map," he said.