Redistricting process brings uncertainty -- and opportunity
Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 5:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 5:31 p.m.
Gainesville Republican and state House District 22 incumbent Keith Perry says the ongoing redistricting process currently has him in a state of limbo.
Even under the current district lines, Perry said his home was in an unusual situation — with his backyard in the boundaries of Democratic state Rep. Chuck Chestnut IV's House District 23.
Under proposed maps that advanced in a House committee last week, Perry's District 22 would be redrawn to contain more of Marion County, all of Levy County and none of Alachua County. Under that scenario, Perry could find himself in a newly drawn House District 21, which would include areas of Alachua and all of Dixie and Gilchrist counties.
Unsure of the district he'll end up in, Perry also said redistricting may open up a chance to make a run for another office.
His situation is one example of both the uncertainties and opportunities the redistricting has raised both for incumbents seeking re-election or higher office and for prospective candidates.
As it stands, congressional redistricting may set off a domino effect of political moves. Maps approved by the Florida Senate — the state House vote is expected in February — have longtime incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns' home county of Marion split between his current District 6 and a new District 26 that stretches southward.
State Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, has already expressed interest in running for District 6 – if it does not mean running against Stearns.
If Oelrich runs for Congress, Perry, who was first elected to the House in 2010, says he would like to run for Oelrich's District 14 seat in the Florida Senate.
"I have a strong interest in that seat," Perry said in a phone interview Thursday.
For his part, Stearns remains mum on the subject.
"Redistricting is an ongoing process in the Florida Legislature and it's too early to comment until a final map is approved," Stearns said Friday in a statement released through his campaign office.
GOP political consultant and Alachua County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Stafford Jones said if Stearns runs for congressional District 26, he expects Republican candidates who would not have challenged the 12-term incumbent to jump into the District 6 race.
"I see a lot of Republican interest in District 6 if that's an open seat," Jones said. "A lot of people aren't interested in running against incumbents, but people are interested in running for an open seat. That's how you may see congressional District 6 shaping up here."
Through Friday, the only candidate besides Stearns in the District 6 race was Gainesville Republican Ted Yoho. Yoho signed up last June, well before the redistricting process began, and has campaigned as if he would face Stearns in the GOP primary.
After the Legislature approves maps, court challenges are expected — with the federal Voting Rights Act and the Fair Districts amendments that voters approved in 2010 both in play.
Potential legal challenges could extend the process of finalizing districts to close to the June 4-8 qualifying period.
The uncertainty over district boundaries has not kept some prospective candidates on the sidelines. Last week, Democrat Aaron Bosshardt, the president and chief operating officer of the family owned real estate businesses, signed up to run for Perry's House District 22 seat.
Bosshardt said his intention is to run for whatever district he eventually ends up in when redistricting plays out because his campaign is about issues such as education and the economy — not to unseat any incumbent.
"It's probably too early to tell who's running for this seat," he said. "My idea all along is to run for Florida and to run for the people of the district no matter what district I'm in."
Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or firstname.lastname@example.org.