Let the House Games Begin

Under The Hood

A year ago, it seemed 2022 might be a fairly sleepy political cycle at the legislative level. We had incumbents running in every state House and Senate district in the area. But with a redistricting map that just cleared a critical subcommittee in the state House, there could be tumult ahead.

The cartography just approved by the House Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee reframes Sarasota County, shifting it from five House districts to four. It does that partially by knocking a St. Petersburg minority access district completely out of Sarasota (or Manatee) counties. That makes it significantly less likely this region will have a black representative in its delegation in come November, and less certain there will be a Democrat, though the latter isn’t out of the question.

But getting to the most urgent consequence, this map as drawn today places Reps. James Buchanan, R-Venice, and Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, in the same House district. The new House District 74 would include most of east Sarasota County, including everything east of Interstate-75.

Both incumbents have said they will run where they live. Ahead of Session, Buchanan was emphatic about where he would run. “74,” he said. “Where I live and represent.” 

Gregory held off until maps could morph but says there is a 100% chance he will run for another term and a 0% chance he will move. “I have lived in that district since I retired from the Air Force,” he said. “We bought land here, and I built my home here… We chose this region to live because I love it here.”

But put these complimentary words on a map and they turn east Sarasota into a political war zone.

The maps probably provided good news to Rep. Fiona McFarland, R-Sarasota, who doesn’t have to move to stay in the new House District 73. She also ended up in district where Republican Trump won the presidential election — just barely with 49.7% of the vote to Joe Biden’s 49.3%. That’s substantially closer than the break-down for McFarland’s existing district, which went for Trump with 50.2%, but she outperformed Trump percentage-wise then, and this looks to be a good Republican year.

My guess is an affable, if somewhat green, incumbent like McFarland will do fine in a year like 2022 and a district like the one drawn. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be difficult campaign cycles ahead, potentially before she terms out of the House. Historically, this district by any number hasn’t seen a representative in decades who actually termed out with eight years rather than quit or lose along the way. Keep an eye on this district straight until 2032.

Rep. Mike Grant, R-Port Charlotte, will see a district sweep up and pick up coastal parts of Venice and North Port, but there’s not much drama with the Charlotte-centric district until the incumbent reaches his limit on years next cycle.

But all eyes now will turn to the north, where Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh has already expressed interest in quitting her current office to run in the new state House 72. “If they afford that as an opportunity, I’d like to take it,” she said.

The Lakewood Ranch leader likely goes into that race a favorite, though a scandal with a vaccine VIP list where she placed her own name will likely dog her. Some other Republican almost certainly will put up a fight. That said, the bulk of that public episode centered around Baugh working to make sure a vaccine pop-up site set up shop in Lakewood Ranch, serving the very voters who will decide the next election. One voter’s favoritism is another’s salvation. Guess which voters will decide that race?

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA.

« View The Saturday Jan 22, 2022 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Read More

Sarasota Schools Data Dig

Sarasota Schools Data Dig

Christine Robinson | May 21, 2022

Feel Your Best: Youth Mental Wellness

Feel Your Best: Youth Mental Wellness

Jennifer Johnston | May 21, 2022

Retaking a Reputation for Tolerance

Retaking a Reputation for Tolerance

Jacob Ogles | May 14, 2022

Launching Entrepreneurs!

Launching Entrepreneurs!

Patricia Okker | May 14, 2022