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Don’t go roping Will Weatherford into the Florida Senate’s mess, Andy Gardiner

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Thursday was a another wild day in the Florida Capitol, and particularly for the Senate, which seemed for a moment to have adopted a “not one damn” comma approach to its tweaks to the congressional “base map” drawn by staff earlier this month.

Hours before, a story by the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas again stoked the fires of senatorial map-making malpractice.

The article detailed new depositions and court documents related to the shadow redistricting process undertaken by the chamber, complete with inappropriate communications between outside consultants and Senate staff, submitted by “members of the public” who were actually ringers in the tank for the majority, and even staged testimony — “Dick, why do have to be the confused guy?

But in a day filled with subtle intercameral shade-throwing, one comment stood out for me.

Senate President Andy Gardiner was somewhat contrite when responding to the revelations in the Herald, but he did manage to get in this dig:

“The Court’s most recent definition of legislative intent was not in place at the time Amendments 5 and 6 were approved … or when President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford developed the process by which the House and Senate would draw new legislative maps in 2012.”

You catch that?

Yes, President Gardiner went ahead and roped House Speaker Will Weatherford into the years-long legal morass, even though the House maps are the sole proposal out of three that have not faced legal challenges from voters-rights groups.

Now, I’m not saying Weatherford is the “shining knight” Marc Caputo recently called him on Twitter, or that his mind was completely clear of electoral concern like some kind of zen Amerigo Vespucci.

Any time politicians are drawing boundaries, politics will be baked into the lines.

But the plain fact is this: Weatherford took his medicine like a man and took a political hit for the sake of complying with the Fair Districts amendments.

The Senate did not.

In doing so Florida state senators risked — in fact, are still risking — large GOP majorities in both chambers should the Republican catastrophe of court-drawn maps come to pass because of the litigation their maps have caused.

That is what a leader is willing to do. Granted, the 120-member House with its more inexperienced members has a tradition of more powerful leadership at the top, but the fact remains Weatherford bit the bullet and did what needed to be done to avoid wasting taxpayer money and bringing national criticism down upon the Legislature.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. Take veteran Democratic strategist — and one-man cottage industry of interview productionSteve Schale.

“I think, to his credit, Will did make an effort to send a signal that the House was going to do things on the up and up,” said Schale.

Again, after allowing for the possibility of some political concern among those in House Republican circles at the time — Gambling in the Casablanca? I’m shocked! — Schale nevertheless gave credit where it is due.

“I think he made a decision early on, rightfully, that he just didn’t want to deal with the fallout of going to court,” said Schale, who like Weatherford once served as a legislative staffer in Tallahassee.

So to imply the House under Weatherford was playing the same brand of dirty pool as Senate map-drawers, where there were last-minute changes that raised eyebrows? That’s just voodoo cartography.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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