To protect or not protect? That is the question before legislators as they craft the new legislative and congressional districts without running afoul of the new Fair Districts amendments which prohibit them from drawing political lines to protect incumbent politician or a political party. Here is our story on the first proposals.
But when it comes to incumbency protection, House and Senate staff have been prohibited from including the home addresses of any legislator or congressman. So the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times performed our own analysis and discovered: of the 27 Congressional seats, five include no incumbent and of the 40 state Senate seats, 12 were drawn without an incumbent. Meanwhile, 27 district include an incumbent but not necessarily representing the same group of constituents he or she has represented before.
Sound convincing? Not for Democratic political consultant Steve Schale. He said it's usually not an issue for the Washington, D.C.-based pols to pick up and move. "For better or for worse, residency hasn't been an issue in congressional districting,'' he said.
Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich offered: "We're not supposed to be talking about political parties and incumbents, but with this map somebody must have been thinking about political parties and incumbents."
Here's a look at where the shifting seats stand:
* Republican Allen West's home in Plantation is now in Rep. Debbie Wassermen Schultz's district but the plan would put him in his own District 22. However, it remains a challenging one for a Republican.
* Republican Cliff Stearns is edged out of his current District 6 but his Ocala home is moved into the new District 26, a district with an 82 percent white voter registration that includes Republican stronghold of The Villages.
* Republican John Mica no longer represents District 7 but his Winter Park home is included in the same districts as Orlando Republican Sandy Adams, whose district becomes more compact.
* Republican Daniel Webster was drawn out of District 8 and his Orlando home was included in the majority black district that is now held by Democrat Corrine Brown but the Orlando Sentinel notes that a new district may be drawn for him that is safer and more Republican than the tumultuous district he now holds.
* Democrat Alcee Hastings was drawn out of District 23 and plopped into District 21, which is now home to Republican David Rivera.
* Rivera's district, which currently stretches from Miami to Fort Myers, would stretch northward through Collier County into Hendry County to pick up Hispanic voters.
* Republican Mario Diaz Balart would now reside in District 25, an 72 percent Hispanic district completely contained in Miami Dade County.
* No incumbent is included in District 27, the Central Florida seat with a voting age population that includes 40 percent Hispanic voters.
* Republican Richard Nugent may be in for a challenge. His District 5 seat becomes more compact. Instead of encompassing eight counties, including all of Hernando and most of Pasco, the new district would take in all of Pasco and most of Hernando, thereby favoring a Pasco County-based candidate. Coincidentally, the county's longest-serving legislator, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is interested in a possible congressional run in 2012 when he will be forced to leave the Legislature due to term limits.
* Republican Thad Altman is now in District 26, in a district that includes a large share of what used to be Senate President Mike Haridopolis' current district. Altman's current District 24 is shifted towards Orlando and is now a solidly-performing Democratic district.
* Republican Jack Latvala was also drawn "out" of his current District 16 in South Pinellas, which is now a Democratically-performing seat and his home is now inside District 13, which makes up North Pinellas, the region where Latvala previously served during his first stint in the Senate from 1994-2002.