Inside the Lines: Round-up of media coverage of redistricting for 9/8

in Uncategorized by
A reminder about one of the regular features on one of my other sites, InsideTheLinesFLA.com – a daily briefing about media coverage of redistricting.
With Republicans controlling the Florida legislature and governorship, and thus fully in charge of the congressional redistricting process, it was assumed that a secure district would be carved for freshman West, one of two African-American Republicans in Congress and a nationally known Tea Party conservative from his frequent appearances on cable TV programs.

But sources in the Sunshine State say redistricting is by no means a slam-dunk for West.  Two-term Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, who has a Republican-leaning district, has to lose approximately 100,000 individuals.  However, he most likely wants to shave off Charlotte County on the west coast of Florida, which coincidentally, has about that amount of Democrats in its population.  However, this may require Rooney to add even more GOP voters to the Palm Beach portion of his 16th District, and they would almost certainly come from the neighboring 22nd District held by West.

Like most Florida Democrats, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is frustrated at the Republican go-slow approach to congressional redistricting. And she’s offering a theory about the motive.
The Republican plan, she said this week, is to so delay the drawing of new congressional districts that the 2012 elections would be run in the existing districts that reflect the population and political priorities of 10 years ago. Under that scenario, she said, the two new congressional seats the state is getting because Florida’s population increased in the last decade might be filled in statewide, at-large elections.
“What they’re trying to do, mark my words, is try to push this map drawing all the way until next year … they finish right as federal qualifying begins. What they’re risking is, trying to risk is, making sure that we have to run in the existing districts,” the Weston Democrat told a questioner at a town hall meeting Monday at the Sunrise Senior Center.
“The Republicans are trying to serve their own interests rather than trying to implement the will of the voters,” Wasserman Schultz said.
State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, chairman of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, said the congresswoman is pushing a fanciful conspiracy theory.
Palm Beach Post – League of Women Voters playing politics with redistricting process (by Rep. Will Weatherford and Sen. Don Gaetz)
The Post’s editorial, “Draw the line on arrogance,” read like a script circulated by the League of Women Voters of Florida. And after traveling to 20 cities, we can recognize a prepared script when we hear one.
At each stop, we heard officers from the league, which has chosen not to participate constructively in redistricting, accuse the Legislature of stalling this once-in-a-decade effort. So we thought it couldn’t hurt to outline the timetable and let your readers judge for themselves.
House hopefuls across the country are busy building their 2012 campaigns — hiring staff, raising money and wooing early support. For some, the only thing missing is a seat to run for.
The contenders liken the task of running for an undrawn seat to a personal identity crisis.
“I’m running in the in-limbo district,” laughed Tammy Hall, a Florida Republican who is seeking one of the state’s two yet-to-be-drawn seats. “It is kind of hard to articulate to folks.”
“People running for districts that don’t exist? That’s me,” said Paige Kreegel, a Florida state representative who has launched a campaign for what he expects to be a new House seat in the southern part of the state. “There is a question on everyone’s mind: Where is your district?”
Give Florida state Sen. Don Gaetz credit. After weeks of public criticism about the Legislature’s deliberate pace in drawing new political maps, the Republican senator from Niceville has proposed amending the state Constitution to allow the next redrawing to occur a full year before the general election. That’s the first indication that anyone in Republican-controlled Tallahassee gets it: Voters are sick of a redistricting process that favors incumbents.
For weeks, Republican Senate Redistricting Chairman Don Gaetz has been making a magnanimous offer to Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich: on the first day of meetings of the Senate Redistricting Committee in September, she gets the first chance at presenting a districting map.
The goal, he told audiences at public hearings around the state, is to right a wrong. As a freshmen state representative in 2002 she was barred from presenting a redistricitng map of her own, Gaetz explains. The trouble is, Rich says, “he’s got his facts wrong,” and his “real agenda,” she says, “is to have me offer up the first plan so they can shoot holes in it.”
On Wednesday, Rich sent Gaetz a strongly-worded letter correcting the record and unleashing a rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner. Rich first cut to the chase: the constitutional requirement that the legislature take its vote on a redistricting plan no sooner than January applies only to the legislative maps.  “If you are truly serious about wanting to produce maps as soon as possible, I urge you to discuss with Senate President Mike Haridopolos the possibility of convening a short Special Session during a fall committee week to approve the congressional maps,” she wrote.
W.C. Fields was lying deathly ill in bed at a hotel. His close friend walked in and saw Fields carefully reading the Bible.
“W.C.,” he said, “what are you doing? You know you’ve never read that book in your life!”
“Looking for loopholes, looking for loopholes,” Fields retorted.
Unfortunately, and with much less humor, that is exactly what our state legislative leaders have been doing these past 11 weeks during their redistricting “listening tour” throughout the state. Ever since a remarkable 63 percent of Florida voters passed Fair Districts Amendments 5 and 6 last November, legislative leaders have been looking for loopholes to protect their seats, including using taxpayer dollars to fight the amendments in court and creating a calendar that will prevent fair and efficient elections in 2012.

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.