Redistricting drama: Sachs leaving, Abruzzo switching to House race

Updated June 08, 2016

Two of Palm Beach County’s three Democratic state senators announced Wednesday that they will not seek re-election this year — the latest fallout from a court-ordered redistricting plan that put the three senators in the same new district.

State Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, said she’s leaving the Florida Legislature to form a nonprofit foundation called the Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, said he’s scrapping his campaign for a newly drawn south- and west-county Senate seat to instead run for a House seat.

Abruzzo and state Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, announced an agreement in which Abruzzo will run for Rader’s District 81 House seat and Rader will give up his re-election bid to take Abruzzo’s place in the race for the District 29 Senate seat.

The maneuvering comes 16 days before Florida’s June 24 deadline for candidates to submit paperwork and pay filing fees to secure a spot on the 2016 ballot.

Senate districts were redrawn in December after courts ruled the Republican-controlled Legislature illegally gerrymandered Senate seats in 2012. The new plan should boost Democrats statewide, but in Palm Beach County it put Democratic Sens. Abruzzo, Sachs and Jeff Clemens of Atlantis into the same Senate District 31.

Clemens, in line to become Senate Democratic leader in 2018, is running in District 31. Abruzzo, whose old Senate district includes many District 29 residents, launched a District 29 campaign in January with plans to move into the new district.

But Abruzzo has not moved, and in a video statement Wednesday noted that House District 81 is “where I live” and includes many of his current Senate constituents.

Senate and House members receive the same $29,697 salary.

Sachs considered running in either District 29 or 31, but she has not raised campaign money for months and had indicated she might not run at all.

On Wednesday, she announced the anti-trafficking foundation, saying, “I have the opportunity to do this, and I know I cannot serve two masters. This is important work. And I know what it takes to run a good campaign.”

Abruzzo was the only announced candidate in Senate District 29, but state Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, has recently told other elected officials he plans to run in District 29, which includes a chunk of his House constituents.

“Kevin Rader is running in 29? That’s surprising,” Slosberg said Wednesday. He said he is continuing to weigh a run in Senate District 29 or 31 and is also considering remaining in his south Palm Beach County House seat.