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Florida lawmakers coming back to approve Governor Ron DeSantis’s new U.S. House map
Lawmakers convene special session on governor’s plan to add 4 Republican-leaning seats, nuke North Florida majority-minority district
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
TALLAHASSEE (CFP) — Florida lawmakers will be back in Tallahassee this week to approve a new U.S. House map, with the Republicans in charge ready (or maybe just resigned?) to letting Governor Ron DeSantis take the lead – a decision that’s almost certain to result in both state and federal court fights over how far Republicans can go in gerrymandering the map to their advantage.
DeSantis has proposed a new map that will add four GOP-leaning seats across the state, giving the party a shot at winning 20 of 28 seats – in a state where Republicans usually only win by single-digit margins in statewide races.
Potentially more problematically from a legal perspective, DeSantis wants to nuke the current 5th District in North Florida, a Democratic-leaning, majority-minority district that stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.
Instead, metro Jacksonville will be carved into two Republican-leaning districts, and Tallahassee and rural areas in the district will be subsumed into two existing districts, which have heavy GOP majorities.
DeSantis has railed against the 5th District, which was created by the Florida Supreme Court after a lawsuit over the 2012 U.S. House map. Its existence was the primary reason he vetoed the map approved earlier this year by Republican legislators, who were wary of trying to dismantle a district that is 47% black, represented by black Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.
But DeSantis has insisted he wants a “race neutral” map, in which districts aren’t drawn with racial considerations in mind, and Republican legislative leaders now appear resigned to letting him get his way.
While DeSantis’s new map leaves the current line-up of seats in South Florida intact, he’s rejiggered the lines in Tampa Bay to make the 13th District in Pinellas County (currently held by Democrat Charlie Crist) more Republican and also made changes in metro Orlando to give the currently competitive 7th District (held by Democrat Stephanie Murphy) a decidedly Republican tilt.
Currently, there are 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats in Florida’s House delegation. Under the new map, there will be 18 Republican-leaning seats, eight that lean Democratic and two in South Florida that will be competitive but are now both held by Republicans.
Should DeSantis’s map pass as is, the legal fight will commence in two directions.
First, in 2010, Florida voters passed two constitutional amendments, dubbed the Fair Districts amendments, designed to prevent legislators from drawing maps designed to protect incumbents or create partisan advantage. This makes Florida somewhat unique among states by limiting, at least in theory, how far legislators can go in partisan map making.
In 2015, the Florida Supreme Court cited those very amendments in overturning the U.S. House map drawn in 2012 and imposing a new one, which created the districts that Lawson and Murphy won.
However, thanks to appointments by DeSantis and his predecessor as governor, Rick Scott, the state’s high court is more conservative that it was in 2015, and there is speculation the justices will look more favorably on legislators’ handiwork this time around.
But what also remains as a potential impediment to DeSantis’s best-laid plans is the federal Voting Rights Act. Although Florida no longer has to get clearance from the Justice Department for its maps, they still must conform to the act’s purpose of maximizing minority voting representation.
North Florida has sent an African-American representative to Congress continuously since 1992; DeSantis’s proposed map would almost certainly end that representation for the foreseeable future, which will certainly raise voting rights concerns.
It would also have the effect of reducing the number of black Congress members from the Sunshine State from five to four. (Those numbers include Republican Byron Donalds, who represents a mostly white district in Southwest Florida; South Florida Democrats Federica Wilson and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick; and Democrat Val Demings from Orlando.)
That would leave Florida’s black representation in the congressional delegation at about 14%, the same as the state’s black voting age population – which could be an argument in the map’s favor despite the loss of the North Florida seat.
And the final arbiter of a federal challenge to DeSantis’s new map might very well be the U.S. Supreme Court, whose conservative justices seem ready and eager to wade into the issue of voting rights.
In a larger sense, the fight over the maps also shows how DeSantis, in just four short years, has come to amass enough power to bring legislative leaders to heel – in this case, even against their better judgment.
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Florida Primary: U.S. Rep. Ross Spano ousted, as far-right candidate wins GOP nod in Palm Beach
In Pinellas County, conservative TV personality Anna Paulina Luna easily defeats establishment pick in GOP U.S. House primary
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
TALLAHASSEE (CFP) — Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Ross Spano has lost his bid for re-election amid a criminal investigation into his 2018 campaign, while Republicans in Palm Beach County have picked far-right provocateur Laura Loomer — banned from social media for her strident anti-Muslim comments — as their U.S. House nominee, drawing praise from President Donald Trump.
Also in Tuesday’s primary, Kat Cammack won the GOP nomination for the seat being given up by her former boss, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, in North-Central Florida, while State Rep. Byron Donalds of Naples appears to have taken a step toward adding a rare African American face to House Republican ranks.
Meanwhile, in Pinellas County, conservative TV personality Anna Paulina Luna defeated the pick of the Republican establishment, Amanda Makki, for the right to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in what may be the GOP’s best chance to flip a Florida seat in 2020.
In the 15th District (I-4 Corridor between Tampa and Orlando), with all of the precincts reporting, Spano trailed Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin by less than 1,600 votes.
During the campaign, Franklin hammered Spano over an ongoing federal criminal investigation into illegal loans made to his 2018 campaign. The congressman has admitted his campaign violated campaign finance laws but denies any criminal wrongdoing.
Franklin will now face the Democratic primary winner, Alan Cohn, a former investigative journalist, although Democrats’ hopes of flipping the Republican-learning seat probably dimmed with Spano’s demise.
In the 3rd District (Gainesville and North-Central Florida), where Yoho is retiring, 10 Republicans were competing to fill his seat.
Cammack, former Yoho aide from Gainesville, took 25% to edge out Judson Sapp, a businessman from Green Cove Springs, at 20%.
Because Florida does not have primary runoffs, the first-place finisher in Tuesday’s crowded primary won the nomination with a plurality and will be favored in November in the Republican-leaning district, which is mostly rural but includes the University of Florida.
In the Democratic primary, Adam Christensen, a Gainesville businessman, held a lead of less than 700 votes over Tom Wells, a physicist who has been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America and groups affiliated with Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
Another Republican free-for-all took place in the 19th District (Fort Myers, Naples and Southwest Florida), where U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney is retiring and nine Republicans were running.
Donalds took 23%, less than 800 votes ahead of the second-place finisher, State House Majority Leader Dane Eagle from Cape Coral. Casey Askar, a Iraqi immigrant businessman from Naples who put $3 million of his own money into the campaign, finished a close third.
The 19th District is heavily Republican, which will make Donalds, who is African American, the prohibitive favorite in November. Currently, there is only one black Republican in the House, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, who is not seeking re-election.
In the 13th District (Pinellas County), Luna took 36% to 29% for Makki, a well-connected former congressional aide and Washington lobbyist who had the backing of House Republican leaders and raised $1.2 million for the race.
But Luna, a staunch defender of Trump on TV, excited the Republican grassroots to raise nearly $1 million and surge from behind, with an endorsement from firebrand Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Crist is one of only two Florida Democrats whose seat is expected to be possibly competitive in 2020, although he won re-election by 15 points in 2018.
The other GOP target is U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in the 7th District (Orlando and its northern suburbs), where Leo Valentin, an Orlando radiologist, held a 700-vote lead over Richard Goble, a mortgage broker from Lake Mary, with all precincts reporting.
In the 21st District (Palm Beach County), Loomer took 42% to beat five other Republicans for the nomination to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel in November after raising more than $1 million, outpacing even the incumbent.
While Loomer appears to have little chance against Frankel in the heavily Democratic district,, she will be yet another fringe nominee for Republican leaders to defend, after victories by adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory in Georgia and Colorado.
Loomer, who describes herself as a “nationalist” but eschews the “alt-right” label, has been banned from a variety of social media sites — and even Uber and PayPal — for anti-Muslim rhetoric, describing herself on Twitter as a #ProudIslamophobe and calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country.
Among her particular targets are the only two Muslim women in Congress, U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Loomer has also drawn attention to herself for outlandish publicity stunts, including heckling reporters at the Conservative Political Action conference (which got her banned from the event); asking Chelsea Clinton at a book signing to autograph a book for a woman who alleges that the Clinton’s father, the former president, raped her; and interrupting the assassination scene in a performance of Shakespeare’s “Julius Ceasar” in Central Park, shouting “this is violence against Donald Trump.”
She has also spread conspiracy theories, including that Omar had married her brother and that some school shootings were staged and survivors coached to talk to the media.
Despite that questionable pedigree, Loomer’s campaign has drawn support from Gaetz, Trump confidante Roger Stone, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro.
Trump, who had retweeted a fundraising solicitation sent on Loomer’s behalf, praised her win: “Great going Laura. You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!”
The president’s Mar-a-Lago estate, which is now his permanent residence, is in the 21st District.
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10 Southern U.S. House Democrats in seats flipped in 2018 all vote to impeach
List of supporters includes 5 Democrats who represent districts Trump carried in 2016
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
WASHINGTON (CFP) — All 10 Southern U.S. House Democratic freshmen who flipped seats in 2018 voted in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump Wednesday, including five who represent districts the president carried in 2016.
The impeachment vote is likely to become a pivotal issue next year as these Democrats try to hang on to their seats against Republican challengers, in an election where Trump is at the top of the ballot.
After more than 10 hours of often acrimonious debate, all 50 Southern Democrats in the House voted for both of the articles of impeachment, which charge Trump with abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
Southern Republicans stuck with the president, with all 102 voting no.
The Democrats from districts Trump carried who voted yes were Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, and Joe Cunningham of South Carolina.
All of them had announced prior to the vote that they would support impeachment; McBath had already voted in favor in the House Judiciary Committee.
The two articles of impeachment were also supported by five other Democrats who flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 in districts that Trump did not carry — Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala of Florida.
Two other Democrats who hold seats the GOP is targeting in 2020 — Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist from Florida — also voted for impeachment.
The lone Republican in a Southern seat carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, Will Hurd of Texas, who is retiring in 2020, voted no, as did 13 other Southern Republicans who have announced they won’t seek another term next year.
The two articles of impeachment now move to the Senate for a trial, which is expected to begin in January. Trump will be removed from office if two-thirds of the senators vote to convict him on either article.
The final vote on the first article of impeachment was 230 to 197, with just two Democrats — Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota voting no. No Republicans voted yes.
The second article of impeachment passed 229 to 198, with another Democrat — Jared Golden of Maine — joining the GOP in voting no.
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5 Southern U.S. House Democrats from pro-Trump districts support impeachment bill
Vote on bill outlining procedures for impeachment process breaks down along party lines
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Five Southern U.S. House Democrats who hold seats from districts President Donald Trump carried in 2016 voted with their party Thursday to approve procedures for his possible impeachment, a vote they’ll have to defend as they fight to keep their seats next year.
The Democrats from Trump districts who voted yes included Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, and Joe Cunningham of South Carolina.
Cunningham, Horn and McBath had not previously expressed support for the impeachment inquiry; Spanberger and Luria had.
Five other Democrats who also flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 — Colin Alled and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala of Florida — also voted for the resolution. Those districts were carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
These 10 seats are at the top of the GOP target list for 2020, with the impeachment vote certain to be an issue in those races.
Two other GOP 2020 targets — Democrats Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist from Florida — also voted in favor of the impeachment measure.
The lone Republican in a Southern seat Clinton carried, Will Hurd of Texas, voted no, as did eight other Southern Republicans who have announced they won’t seek another term in 2020.
The overall vote among Southern House members on the bill broke down entirely along party lines. Across the whole House, no Republicans supported the measure, while two Democrats — Collin Peterson from Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey — voted no.
Thursday’s vote was the first formal move by House Democrats to advance the impeachment of Trump over his overture to the president of Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
Cunningham told the Post and Courier newspaper of Charleston that he was voting for the bill in order to make the investigation into Trump more transparent, as Republicans have been demanding.
“Overall it’s a good measure to shine some light on these hearings and make sure that we respect due process,” Cunningham told the Post and Courier.
Horn, announcing her support for the bill on Twitter, stressed that she was only supporting an investigation, not Trump’s actual impeachment.
“It is a vote to create clear rules for effective public hearings and ensure transparency for the American people,” she said. “As I’ve said all along, I always look at the facts in front of me and vote in the best interests of Oklahomans.”
Even before the vote, McBath had felt the potential sting of the impeachment fight when unhappy Trump supporters picketed her district office in suburban Atlanta earlier this month. In response, McBath took to Twitter to say she refused “to be intimidated, I will do what is right,” and included a fundraising solicitation in her post.
Three Southern House members did not vote on the impeachment bill — Jody Hice of Georgia, John Rose of Tennessee, Don McEachin of Virginia.
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Most Southern U.S. House Democrats keeping their powder dry on Trump impeachment
Just 17 of 50 Southern members have come out for impeachment inquiry, most representing safe Democratic districts
♦ By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — A majority of members of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives have now come out publicly in favor of launching an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, but Southern members are showing more caution about taking that political plunge.
As of August 1, just 17 of the 50 Southern Democrats in the House have called for an impeachment inquiry, all but two of whom represent safe Democratic or majority-minority districts where support for impeachment presents them with little future political peril.
Just two of the 10 Southern Democrats who flipped Republican seats in 2018 — Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia — have come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry. And none of the five Southern Democrats representing districts Trump carried in 2016 — Lucy McBath of Georgia, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia — have taken that step.
Five other Democrats at the top of the Republican target list for 2020 — Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, and Donna Shalala, Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy of Florida — are also not supporting an impeachment inquiry.
The list of Southern Democrats who have so far not offered public support for an impeachment inquiry includes some of high-profile members, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee; civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia; and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 ranking Democrat in the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership have been resisting calls to move forward on impeachment, which is why many of the more veteran members have not offered their support.
Here is a state-by-state breakdown of which Southern Democrats have and have not come out for an impeachment inquiry:
Not Yet In Support: Terri Sewell
Support: Mucarsel-Powell, Val Demings, Ted Deutch
Not Yet In Support: Murphy, Crist, Shalala, Wasserman Schultz, Al Lawson, Darren Soto, Kathy Castor, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Frederika Wilson
Not Yet In Support: Lewis, McBath, Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, David Scott
Support: John Yarmuth
Support: Cedric Richmond
Support: Bennie Thompson
Support: G.K. Butterfield, Alma Adams
Not Yet In Support: David Price
Not Yet In Support: Horn
Not Yet In Support: Cunningham, Clyburn
Support: Steve Cohen
Not Yet In Support: Jim Cooper
Support: Veronica Escobar, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Al Green, Joaquin Castro, Filemon Vela, Lloyd Doggett
Not Yet In Support: Fletcher, Allred, Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar, Sylvia Garcia, Eddie Bernice-Johnson, Marc Veasey
Support: Wexton, Don Beyer
Not Yet In Support: Luria, Spanberger, Bobby Scott, Donald McEacherin, Gerry Connolly