Courts Redistricting Truth

DeSantis Victory Saves The Florida Supreme Court And Redistricting

by Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.

Amid all of the talking head analysis of Tuesday’s election, one aspect is often overlooked: Republican Ron DeSantis’ victory for Governor of Florida will sharply change the makeup of the Florida Supreme Court to a large majority conservative, constitutionalist, which will have a powerful impact on redistricting in the nation’s third largest state.

But it was close — less than 1 percent close. Andrew Gillum could have been the first African American governor in the history of Florida. Indeed, the last time this degree of historical significance graced a candidate, he won the Presidency of the United States.  

But Andrew Gillum’s race turned out differently. Tallahassee’s mayor had an excellent performance in his primary election defeating Florida darling Gwen Graham — daughter of former Governor and former Senator Bob Graham — when many felt he couldn’t. Gillum exceeded all expectations, and he did it at a fraction of the cost as more well-heeled candidates battled each other with attack ads.

All the various reasons why Gillum won the primary will be the object of endless discussion and debate, but in the end, the qualities that put him over the top in the primary were the same ones that doomed him in the general.

Gillum ran on plans to make Florida a sanctuary state, to implement an income tax, and to turn the Florida Supreme Court deep blue progressive. The prospects of those changes were too repugnant to Floridians. Florida is an extremely diverse state, but in the face of one of the greatest economies in the country, and Floridians’ aversion to a state income tax, the prospect of turning in a polar opposite direction was too much for the electorate.

And understand, that in most respects, Florida is a red state. Every statewide office holder, including all of the elected cabinet positions are Republican and have been Republican for many years. The Legislature is nearly veto-proof Republican. Only the highest level statewide races make it purple.  

With no experience in Florida government, DeSantis will have a difficult transition from his present duties as a congressman. But perhaps the easiest task for him is arguably the most substantial: picking three conservative Supreme Court judges.

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A Gillum win would have maintained and rejuvenated the Court’s liberal majority. But now, the 4-3 votes in favor of liberals will become 6-1 votes in favor of conservatives; sweet justice for social conservatives and strict constitutionalists who have seen their legislations recurrently blown up by a hostile court.

Oh, and let’s not forget the effect the new Court will have on redistricting challenges by the Democrats a mere three years away. The old 4-3 Court was very friendly to the liberal redistricting lawsuits. The new one will likely be less so, affecting state elections but also congressional elections.  

For Republicans, there is great hope in a DeSantis governorship, but like President Trump, the effect on the Florida Supreme Court alone will suffice in making this win worthwhile.

Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and cohost of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod. Dr. Gonzalez is presently serving in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through to arrange a lecture or book signing.

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