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Analysis shows Senate gives up one R seat to Ds, retains majority with at least 23

According to a Herald/Times analysis of voting data in the 2008 and 2010 elections, the map proposed by Senate Redistricting Chairman Don Gaetz  would continue a strong Republican majority in the 40-member chamber but relinquish one more seat to Democrats than the first map rejected by the Florida Supreme Court.

Under Gaetz's plan, the Senate would have 23 Republican-leaning districts and 15 Democrat-leaning seats, up from the current 12 seats now held by the minority party. Another two seats, District 8 in Central Florida, and District 17 in Pinellas, would be competitive. District 8 is the district Republican Rep. Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange is seeking and her likely opponent is Frank Bruno, the chairman of the Volusia County Commission.

District 17 is the seat now held by Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who has been engaged in the leadership fight mounted against Sen. Andy Gardiner last month by Gaetz allies, Sen. John Thrasher and Sen. Joe Negron.  

Gaetz's map now pits Gardiner against one of his staunch supporters, Sen. David Simmons, and thrusts Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, into the same districts as Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach.

The first map proposed by the Senate and rejected by the court did not pit any incumbent senators against each other and was rejected by the court because it was “was rife with indicators of improper intent.” In that map, 24 of the 40 Senate districts were solidly Republican based on performance in the last two elections and 14 were Democratic and another two districts leaned Republican.

Democratic Party executive director Scott Arcenaux predicted the Gaetz map, if approved by the Senate, would face the same fate as the first map.

"My read is where the first map was really unconstitutional, this map is a little less unconstitutional,'' he said. "They're doing their best to maximize the number of Republicans they can elect to the state Senate."

Among the flaws, he said, were the oddly-shaped districts across the state, the non-compact district that pits Bogdanoff and Sachs in the same seat and stretching from Palm Beach to Broward counties.

"They pack all the Republicans they can find in Broward and Palm Beach counties to create a district for Ellyn Bogdanoff,'' he said. 

Gaetz defended the district, saying it "no longer extends along the coast of Palm Beach and Broward counties" and "is substantially revised into compact districts." He noted that a new district now combines both African American and Hispanic voters into a district wholly contained in Palm Beach County.

He also notes that District 35, now held by Miami Democrat Gwen Margolis, is a new Hispanic-majority district. The Herald/Times analysis showed the district voted for President Obama over John McCain 61 percent to 39 percent and voted for Democrat Alex Sink over Republican Rick Scott by nearly the same margin.

 Times researcher Darla Cameron contributed to this report.