TALLAHASSEE – The Republican-dominated Florida House tried — and failed — to please Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who tweeted his opposition to proposed congressional maps while representatives were in the process of debating them Friday.
It was unusual move by DeSantis to inject himself in the once-a-decade redrawing of political lines after the federal census is released. DeSantis earlier this session released his own proposal, which would likely eliminate two black plurality districts.
“I will veto the congressional reapportionment plan currently being debated by the House. DOA,” DeSantis tweeted.
DeSantis is running for reelection this year and is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2024. At a press conference in Jacksonville, DeSantis said he sent the tweet because some people in the Capitol were speculating that he wouldn’t veto the map.
“After seeing me for however many years, what makes you think when I say I’m going to do something that I’m not going to follow through?” DeSantis said. “I don’t bluff.”
The House later passed a bill on a 67-47 vote that approved a primary map that was introduced a week ago in an effort to appease the governor’s concerns about the constitutionality of the district of U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, an African American, while still trying to maintain a Black plurality district in Jacksonville. The bill also contains a secondary map that largely maintains Lawson’s district in case the primary map is found unconstitutional.
“The Florida House of Representatives just got played. We had maps that looked a lot better than what we’re seeing today, and we scrapped all of that to satisfy the whims of our governor,” said Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith. “Should we just give the governor a Sharpie? Have at it. Draw your own maps, draw whatever your little heart desires and we will just do this for you.”
Republican Rep. Tom Leek, who chairs the House Redistricting Committee, defended DeSantis’ right to get involved in the process.
“Some of you don’t think the governor has a place in this. I disagree. The governor constitutionally has a place in this,” Leek said. “At least he engaged.”
The only two things lawmakers are required to do this year are to approve a state budget and redraw political lines. The governor’s veto threat complicates the Legislature’s efforts to pass a congressional map before their regular session ends March 11.
The House and Senate only have a week to resolve differences in their proposals. If DeSantis vetoes the final plan, lawmakers will have to come back to the Capitol for a special session to either override the veto, or approve a map they think the governor will accept. Candidate qualifying for Congress runs from June 13-17.
Whatever map is eventually approved by DeSantis will include a new 28th congressional district, a result of Florida’s population growing by 2.7 million new residents between 2010 and 2020.