Rep. Nick Duran isn’t running again, but the question of who will fill the state House seat representing Key Biscayne —as well as other state and federal offices— will hinge on how political lines are redrawn as a result of the 2020 census. It’s turning into quite a complicated affair, and the Legislature doesn’t even meet until January to decide.
Even more uncertain: which candidates will compete to be the island’s representative in the Florida Senate. Under proposals now being discussed, Key Biscayne and its 15,000 residents could be placed into an entirely different district than the current one.
Redistricting is often a contentious exercise in Florida that has led to lawsuits, as parties try to maximize power through gerrymandering. Amendment 6, approved by voters in 2010, forbids lawmakers from drawing lines “to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.” Violation of that new law by Republicans after the 2010 census led to court-drawn maps in 2015.
In his decision not to seek reelection, Duran said he wanted to resume a business career and spend time with his family instead of trips to Tallahassee. He was tapped in September to be CEO of Primavera Health, a healthcare analytics company that focuses on making physicians’ offices more efficient.
But with Duran’s decision not to run, Key Biscayne residents will be confronted with a very different political landscape for elections now less than a year away.
For the Florida House, attorney Alessandro “A.J.” D’Amico filed papers last week to run as a Democrat for the seat being left vacant by Duran. D’Amico, 27, is a former legislative aide to County Commissioner Rene Garcia, a former Republican state senator. He’d be making his first bid for elective office. No one has yet filed on the Republican side. D’Amico said he is planning a formal announcement of his candidacy this week.
For the State Senate, a draft map from the Senate Reapportionment Committee would place Key Biscayne in Senate District 40 instead of current District 37. The change is significant: District 40 is currently inland, west of U.S. 1. A new map for 40 includes the Roads, Pinecrest, Cutler Bay, and Homestead Air Force Reserve Base. District 40 is currently represented by State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who recently announced plans to run for Governor.
The change is causing a mammoth switcheroo in who’s running for what.
Democrat Janelle Perez now plans to run in District 40, according to her campaign. No Republicans have yet filed for the seat, but it’s expected that Ileana Garcia, the incumbent in 37, will now run in 40 (her office did not respond to a query).
In District 37 —sans Key Biscayne— Miami Beach’s Michael Grieco, who currently represents House District 113, has now also filed for District 37. The Democrat said Sunday he expects that Garcia will be his opponent.
“Nothing is set in stone, but we expect that to be the end result,” Grieco said. “They drew Key Biscayne into 40 because of concern that it would tilt 37 toward the Democratic side,” Grieco said. He added that it made more sense to leave Key Biscayne paired with Miami Beach, another barrier island.
Garcia defeated Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez by 34 votes in 2020 in a contest that is still mired in controversy. The race saw a “sham” candidate used to siphon votes, and criminal charges are pending against former Republican operative Frank Artiles.
U.S. House of Representatives
Much attention is being paid to Congressional District 27, which includes Key Biscayne and was a pickup for Republicans in 2020, with Republican Maria Elvira Salazar ousting incumbent Democrat Donna Shalala. The committee’s map shows changes here as well, making a district that is safer for Salazar’s re-election —but that otherwise mystified one prominent redistricting watcher.
“Is this a head fake?” wrote David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, saying he’d expected Florida Republicans to create a state map that would elect more GOP members of Congress. “I’d be very surprised if Tallahassee Rs settle for this,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Florida House has yet to release its redistricting map, but is expected to do so soon, Grieco said. “I would love to have Key Biscayne in the district,” he said, but added that he’s fairly confident the Legislature will move the island out of the district in the end.