The first draft of a redistricting map creates a dilemma for two neighboring Democratic incumbents in Palm Beach County: Who runs in which district?
And the answer for U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch of unincorporated Palm Beach County next to Boca Raton and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach likely won’t be settled for quite some time until the Florida Legislature agrees on a final version and the court signs off on it.
But the initial map shows that the homes of Deutch and Frankel would both land in District 21. Deutch currently represents District 21 while Frankel represents District 22.
While a Deutch vs. Frankel match might sound like good entertainment for Republicans as it would pit two liberal lawmakers and former state legislators against each other, it’s unlikely that will happen.
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“I would hate to have that develop as a primary,” said Jody Young, a Democratic consultant in Palm Beach County. “It would not be fun for a lot of people in this town to pick one over the other — they are highly popular.”
According to the U.S. Constitution, members don’t have to live in the districts where they run for office or serve — they only need to live in the state they represent.
That means that Frankel could run in District 22 — which she represents now — without moving. Living outside of the district can open up a candidate to scrutiny, but it isn’t unusual — Allen West of Plantation won the seat in a Republican wave in 2010 even though he technically lived in the neighboring district represented by his liberal arch nemesis, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.
Currently, both Districts 21 and 22 primarily lie in Palm Beach County and include pieces of Broward. But the new version would make District 22 a largely Broward district including parts of northern Broward and Fort Lauderdale as well as Boca Raton although Deutch’s home in unincorporated Palm Beach County would land in District 21. Meanwhile, District 21 would include Frankel’s home city of West Palm Beach. That means if Frankel decides to run in District 22, she would be giving up the city where she lives.
In the newly drawn District 22, 82 percent of the voting age population is in Broward County.
Both Deutch and Frankel have easily won recent races. So should either decide to run in a newly-drawn primarily Broward district, that could mean a tougher race than in the past.
It appears the map leaves them both a district with most of their current voters. Deutch retains about 59 percent of his existing population in District 21 while Frankel retains about 57 percent of her existing population in District 22.
“You’d hate to see one of them have to run against a potential strong Broward County based politician, because that would be a harder slot than running in their own district, but the maps are the maps, we will have to see ...” Young said. “They are very good friends. I don’t have any doubt they’ve already had discussions about this.”
It’s early to predict who from Broward County may consider a bid for such a Congressional seat. When Frankel first ran in 2012, she fended off a primary challenge from Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs of Coconut Creek. Frankel won by a landslide in Palm Beach County and just barely beat Jacobs in Broward. Jacobs is a now a state representative.
Deutch and Frankel are expected to await the final map before they make a decision. Then, their campaigns will likely analyze the newly-drawn districts to determine how much of the voting population overlaps with their current districts as well as other areas they have represented in the past — Frankel is a former West Palm Beach mayor and both served in the state Legislature. Frankel and Deutch will also likely take into account how left-leaning the new districts become and past voter performance.
Frankel wasted no time in reaching out to potentially new donors.
“The first maps of the redistricting process were announced late yesterday ... they prove what we suspected: It's going to take even more resources than we anticipated to make sure we're able to introduce me to the new voters,” states a Frankel fundraising email Aug. 6.
She had about $417,000 on hand, according to her campaign finance report filed in July.
The Legislature released the map days before it begins a two-week, court-mandated special session to adjust the map. The courts will have the final say before any new map will go into effect before the 2016 election.
But the first draft of the map doesn’t cause major changes for some other South Florida districts. For example, Wasserman Schultz would lose a slice of her district near Sawgrass Mills but pick up more of Hallandale Beach.
In Miami-Dade County, District 26 becomes a pinch more Republican but essentially remains the only competitive swing district in South Florida. U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, faces a challenge by Democrat Annette Taddeo. The map moves all of Homestead — which is currently split between two districts — into this district and removes a largely African-American neighborhood.
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Jeremy Wallace contributed to this article.