Nov. 22, 2021 by David Silverberg
Cindy Banyai, Democratic congressional candidate for the 19th Congressional District, on Friday, Nov. 19, blasted draft redistricting maps from the Florida Senate that cut Fort Myers in two and moved Lehigh Acres fully into a neighboring district.
“This is gerrymandering,” stated Banyai in a press release. “Most of the people who are no longer in FL19 are minorities, our Black and Latino neighbors. It’s well known that this district has always been a giveaway to the Republicans, but this clear targeting of our communities of color should alarm everyone.”
The 19th Congressional District runs along the coast from Cape Coral to Marco Island and inland about as far as Route 75.
Under new draft maps released by the state Senate Committee on Redistricting, North Fort Myers, the Dunbar neighborhood, the old town River District, Tice and, to the east, all of Lehigh Acres would move from the 19th District to the northern 17th District. (To read a detailed analysis of the draft maps’ impact on Southwest Florida, see “Draft redistricting maps move North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, into different congressional district.”)
There were four draft maps released by the Committee on Nov. 10: S000C8002, S000C8004, S000C8006 and S000C8008.
Banyai pointed out that all the maps move the urban portions of Fort Myers into a mainly rural district.
“I think there is no doubt that it is absolutely a point to move democratic voters out of Florida 19,” Banyai told NBC-2’s political reporter, Dave Elias, in a report last Friday, Nov. 19. “This district has been sold out and considered a red district and they don’t really care what the voting population of Southwest Florida thinks.”
She raised four objections to the draft maps.
“Including part of Fort Myers and Lehigh in FL17 goes against the concept of compactness, given the size of FL17,” she stated.
“Additionally, the Dunbar community in Fort Myers, and Lehigh have high non-white populations. Lehigh has a 64% minority population, while the City of Fort Myers has a 51% minority population. Moving Lehigh and part of the City of Fort Myers out of FL19 has decreased the Black population of FL19 by a third, from 6% to 4% of the total population, in a district with a Black population that was below the state (15.6%) and county (8.2%) percentages.”
She pointed out: “All configurations of FL19 presented by the Florida Senate Committee on Reapportionment favor the White populations of Southwest Florida, whilst splitting and diluting the power of the people of color.”
Also, she noted, splitting the city of Fort Myers violates a concept of keeping “communities of interest” together. The new boundaries follow small residential roads rather than major thoroughfares and would cut up the city and move cohesive neighborhoods like Dunbar and majority Black neighborhoods surrounding Safety Hill.
“These areas of Lee County should be put into the same Congressional district. Putting coastal Collier and Lee Counties together favors the wealthy, White elite and marginalizes communities of color across Southwest Florida by lumping them into the largely rural districts of FL17 and FL25,” she argued.
She continued: “I encourage everyone to review all maps in this redistricting process and to stand up for your community. We cannot let politicians carve out communities they don’t like and ping-pong them around the state. Black and Brown voices should not be marginalized to score political points.”
When Elias polled people in Fort Myers about their potential new congressman (Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.)) should they be moved out of the 19th District, none recognized him.
“I’m not aware of the name. I’m in touch with local politics and never heard the name,” Randy Carry, a resident of North Fort Myers, told Elias when he showed him Steube’s picture. “I’ve never even seen his face.”
To register an opinion on potential redistricting, go to the state redistricting opinion form, here.
Liberty lives in light
© 2021 by David Silverberg