Senate Approves Map Delivering Change To Region

Todays News

The Florida Senate on Wednesday approved a new congressional map that Gov. Ron DeSantis intends to sign. In addition to increasing the number of Florida U.S. House districts from 27 to 28, the plan will radically reshape Southwest Florida, placing Manatee County entirely in one district and Sarasota County wholly in another.

Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, defended the map passed by the Senate. “I think the maps are great,” he said.

Gruters, also the Republican Party of Florida chair, said he stayed out of early stages of redistricting when the Legislature passed its own map. He felt confident those maps would stand as constitutional in court. The Governor, though, vetoed the maps and proposed his own. Gruters also has confidence in those maps.

“I have no doubt they will withstand any type of judicial challenge,” he said.

Political ramifications, though, could shake out with consequence.

As proposed, U.S. House District 16 on the would encompass all of Manatee, as well as most of south Hillsborough County south of State Road 60 in Brandon. Meanwhile, U.S. House District 17 covers all of Sarasota and Charlotte counties, as well as northeast Lee County. Partisan performance analyses show both seats remain safely Republican. About 53.81% of District 16 voters favored Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, and 57.49% of District 17 voters picked Trump as well.

But both U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, a Republican elected in 2006, and Greg Steube, a Republican elected in 2018, live in District 17 as drawn. There’s no requirement for Congressmen to live in their districts but it’s unclear where either will run. Buchanan’s district covers all of Manatee now, as well as north Sarasota. Steube’s district expands into the Florida Heartland, most of which ends up on the new map in U.S. House District 18.

Most likely, Buchanan and Steube will run in separate districts, but it hasn’t been settled where each will run. 

Should the two somehow run for the same seat, that could likely set off dominoes in the region, with figures like Gruters and Reps. Tommy Gregory and Mike Beltran as potential candidates for an open congressional seat, along with figures like former Senate President Bill Galvano. For sitting lawmakers, that would also unexpectedly open seats for the state Legislature that would be sure to generate interest from prospective candidates.

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