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Tampa Bay area state senators on collision course for GOP primary because of new redistricting maps


State Sen. Wilton Simpson is not moving under any circumstances, saying suggestions he might move to a new district to avoid facing another incumbent and preserve his status as a future Senate leader “nonsense.”

Simpson, R-Trilby, said he will run for re-election in a the new district where his present home and farm is located, but which also includes the home of Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, who also plans to seek re-election. Legg said he's running for re-election and suggested Simpson could move south into a different district to avoid a primary fight that has been made possible because of the latest turn in the state’s years long redistricting saga.

"I've raised my family here," Simpson said. "I've spent a lof of my life here. My intention is to run where my seat has been drawn. This is a good seat."

A state court adopted new redistricting maps last week that put Legg and Simpson into the same district. On Tuesday, the Legislature assigned district numbers to the 40 districts adopted by the court, putting Simpson and Legg into what is the new 10th District. That district will include all of Citrus and Hernando counties, plus most of central and northeastern Pasco County.

A Simpson-Legg Republican primary battle could have a lot more riding on it than just who represents Trinity, Land O’Lakes and Trilby. Simpson is in line to become the Florida Senate President in 2021 - marking potentially the first time ever Pasco County would have a resident in that powerful position. But if Legg were to defeat Simpson in a primary, that possibility would be over.

Simpson said he has too many ties and connections to the land and the farm in Trilby that he and his father physically built with their own hands in the late 1970s. He said he is not going to be the type of politician that moves away from his family home, and which he’s lived in for 40 years, just to stay in office.

“This is where I live,” Simpson said.

Legg said last week that he would not challenge Simpson if it would prevent Simpson from becoming the Senate president in 2021, saying it was too important for the community and the region. If the new 10th District had drawn an odd-number for the district, it would have put Simpson on the wrong election cycle and potentially term-limited him out of office before becoming Senate president in 2021.

Legg said if the 10th district were Simpson’s only option to remain in office in 2021, then he would not challenge him in the district. But he said the numbering process the Legislature went through on Tuesday gave a neighboring district that includes eastern Pasco County an even number - District 20. That district has no current incumbent in it, meaning Simpson could move seven miles south and run for that district and be on path to be Senate President still in 2021.

Legg said he too feels a deep sense of connection to he newly drawn district, having lived much of his life in the district’s configuration.

“It’s kind of my old stomping grounds, where I grew up,” Legg said.