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Odd (& even) politics: Florida auditor will renumber Senate districts

It's a numbers game with real political consequences. Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, has asked the state auditor general to randomly assign numbers to all 40 Senate districts Tuesday, as directed by Circuit Judge George Reynolds' redistricting decision issued on Dec. 30.

All 40 Senate seats will be up for election next fall for the second time in four years -- an unprecedented consequence of Florida's redistricting saga.

Superstitious senators will be crossing fingers and rubbing rabbits' feet to get the numbers they're seeking -- and then they may be calling their favorite Realtor.

Twenty Senate districts will be assigned odd numbers and 20 will be given even numbers. Senators who are assigned odd numbers would run for four-year terms in the fall, and senators in even-numbered districts would run for two-year terms, followed by four-year terms in 2018 -- if they're not termed out by then. Those "even" senators would potentially serve an additional two years for a total of 10 years, under the Florida system of electing senators to staggered terms.

No one in the Senate appears to have more at stake in the numbers game than Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, needs a winnable even-numbered district to fulfill his ambition to be Senate president in the 2020-2022 cycle. Simpson's "lucky number" on the court-approved remapping of districts is 18 (his current district number, and the number tentatively assigned to a new Pasco-Hillsborough Senate seat). If it doesn't happen, Simpson will be termed out of office in 2020.

Like Simpson, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, was elected in 2012 from an even-numbered district (#24) and re-elected in 2014. But if Lee is assigned an odd-numbered district in Tuesday's random drawing, he could face having to run for a four-year term in November and his career would end in 2020, two years earlier than planned had the courts had not thrown out the Senate's redistricting plan as illegally gerrymandered.

Take Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, elected in 2010 from an odd-numbered district. Under normal circumstances, she would have run for a four-year term in 2016, giving her a 10-year Senate career. But if she draws an even-numbered district from which to run next fall, she'll serve for two more years and will be out of office in 2018.

This unique mid-cycle re-numbering system also will keep a lot of real estate agents busy, as senators (and some House members) will move their official residences to new districts.   

Gardiner's office said Auditor General Sherrill Norman will use a Microsoft Excel random number generation program to assign the numbers, and it will be conducted in a public meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Room 412 of the Knott Building at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

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