With Governor Ron DeSantis’s firm hold over Florida politics and its public policies, there continue to be major headaches for Democrats in the Sunshine State –particularly as the midterm elections approach.
As The Hill recently reported, retirements, candidate recruitment challenges, and a burgeoning redistricting fight add to the party’s troubles in an already difficult midterm election year.
The party’s hopes of winning approval of new political maps proposed by the Republican-controlled state Senate – with which Democrats were largely satisfied – are now mired in uncertainty after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) took the unusual step of submitting his own redistricting plan that would drastically claw back the number of Democratic districts.
At the same time, Democrats are contending with the retirement of Rep. Stephanie Murphy as well as the losses of Reps. Charlie Crist and Val Demings, who are forgoing running for reelection this year to instead run for Governor and Senate, respectively.
There are also questions about who will challenge GOP Reps. Maria Salazar and Carlos Gimenez for two South Florida House seats that are among the most competitive in the state and flipped into Republican hands in 2020.
These all present some seriously daunting challenges for Democrats, who are already facing historical and political headwinds in their bid to hold on to a razor-thin majority in the House come the midterms. Republicans need to pick up only five seats in November to recapture the lower chamber.
“It’s a headache,” Thomas Kennedy, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member from Florida, said. “The process is being rigged and dragged on to make this as painful as possible. We need candidates to announce now. There’s still time between now and November, but it has to happen soon.”
DeSantis, a rising conservative star who’s seen as a leading candidate for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nod should Trump decide not to run, caught state lawmakers off-guard this week when his general counsel submitted a draft congressional map that gives Republicans 18 districts former President Trump would have won in the 2020 election compared to 10 that would have gone for President Biden.
However, the Florida State Senate overwhelmingly approved its own map that differed from that of the Governor in a vote that marked a rare Republican rebuke of DeSantis.
But what happens next is an open question. The state House is moving much more slowly than the Senate and hasn’t yet said when it will consider its draft maps. And while some of the maps proposed by the House look similar to the Senate, it has also put forth drafts that resemble DeSantis’s proposal.
The uncertainty surrounding the redistricting process has effectively frozen Democrats in key House races for the time being. In Florida’s 26th District, no Democrat has jumped into the race to challenge Gimenez, who defeated former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) in 2020.
Overall, Democrats are also facing the same challenges in Florida as they are just about everywhere else in the country. Biden’s approval rating has continued a months-long slide and currently sits at about 42 percent, according to the data website FiveThirtyEight, which tracks presidential approval.