Lawmakers have completed a swing through the panhandle for public redistricting meetings. One issue that’s come up a lot in the area is whether the region is divided properly, particularly when it comes to its Senate seats.
There are many ways to carve a district. Right now, the region is cut in two, lengthwise. Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, occupies District 4, which runs along the coast from the Alabama border into Bay County. Sen. Greg Evers, R-Crestview, occupies District 2, which sits between Gaetz’s district and the Alabama border (see this map).
Ellen Roston decried the current map during a meeting in Pensacola, saying Escambia County lacks legislative representation in the state Senate. The current split, she said, is “artificial.” What does Pensacola have in common with Bay County?
Roston and other Escambia residents noted that when combined with neighboring Santa Rosa, their county would almost comprise a full Senate district. That method could also hew closer to the guidelines set under Amendment 5, which calls for districts to follow existing governmental boundaries, where feasible.
Jack Livingston of the Escambia County Farm Bureau was one of several farmers who disagreed, saying that under the current map, the coastal and more urban parts of the panhandle have their senator (Gaetz) while the rural agricultural areas have theirs (Evers).
“We like the way the districts are, east to west,” he said, adding: “We’d appreciate if it would stay that way.”