With the 2015 Legislative Session in full swing the focus has shifted from political legislative considerations. Still the Florida Democratic Party is chugging along hiring Philip Thompson as Deputy Executive Director and lauding Jeri Muoio’s West Palm Beach Mayoral reelection, though the party had little to do with her success. The continued emphasis on rules reform and the work of the LEAD Task Force seem to be hardening opinions – those convinced the FDP is doing a good job are hailing these developments while those who represent dissident factions or those progressives who have checked out on the party completely (probably the single largest group of active Democrats in the state) are largely unconvinced by the changes and uninterested in further developments.
House Caucus internal politics appear as fluid as ever with the some Democratic members are expressing frustration with the leadership while others are hailing an era of harmony and unity within the ranks.
The unity behind Rep. Janet Cruz’s elevation as House Minority Leader Designee is an encouraging sign for a party whose numbers in the legislature are wholly unrepresentative of the state’s population and of the districts that were carved during the 2012 redistricting. While in the State Senate the map was drawn with a partisan intent in mind, and Democrats probably can only get to 15 or 16 seats on the current map (they currently have 14 seats), the House is completely different matter.
The map in the House was drawn with 54 districts that were carried by President Obama in 2008. Democrats who claimed that somehow a majority of districts should be performing Democratic because a majority of registered voters in the state were Democrats completely miss the fact that many registered Democrats are Dixiecrats in the Panhandle and the interior of the state. They also more importantly forget that many many Democrats are packed in the urban areas, especially in south Florida, thus producing overwhelmingly compact and Democratic performing districts throughout the tri-county area.
With the Democrats numbers at 39, let’s lay out some basic math as to the winnable districts:
- Seven (7) House Republicans currently sit in districts carried by Democrats at the top of the ticket (Obama 08′, 12′, Sink 10′, Crist 14′).
- Sixteen (16) House Republicans currently sit in districts carried by President Obama in 2012
- Sixteen (16) House Republicans currently sit in districts carried by Governor Crist in 2012
- Twenty One (21) House Republicans currently sit in districts carried by EITHER (not necessarily both) President Obama in 2012 or Governor Crist in 2014
- Nine (9) House Republicans currently sit in districts carried by BOTH President Obama in 2012 and Governor Crist in 2014.
- Zero (0) House Democrats sit in districts carried by either Mitt Romney in 2012 or Rick Scott in 2014.
Part of the discrepancy between Crist and Obama districts revolve around southeast Florida. President Obama carried a number of Cuban-American oriented House Districts in Miami-Dade County in 2012 that Charlie Crist lost in 2014. We’ve already spent lots of time discussing the backsliding of Hispanic votes in 2014 throughout Florida and especially Miami-Dade County. This is especially apparent when looking at where Crist performed worse than Obama (Orlando-area Hispanic oriented districts show the same trend). Broward and Palm Beach Counties have three traditionally Republican but trending Democratic districts along the coast. All three of these districts shifted from support of President Obama in 2008 to support of Mitt Romney in 2012, largely due to concerns about the Administration’s policies on Israel. In 2014, all three coastal districts shifted back to favoring Democrats at the top of the ticket in supporting Charlie Crist.
When looking objectively at the map, Democrats should at a minimum be somewhere between 46 and 51 seats. The party could have as many as 57 or 58 seats thought that is difficult given the substantial institutional advantages the GOP has developed with transactional types that dominate donations in state legislative campaigns.
Unlike past cycles, the current House Victory leadership seems to be taking a logical and incremental approach to gaining seats that should be in the Democratic column. However, given these numbers impatience among rank-in-file Democrats and even some House members is likely to be quite high. Unfortunately, years of neglect cannot be reversed overnight, but 2016 and 2018 must be good cycles for the Democrats in the House in order to set up 2020 and the possibility of having a real impact on the next reapportionment.