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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Chris Smith jokes about NAACP 'white people'

16

April

A day after NAACP member Leon Russell wrote a letter raising concerns about a new redistricting amendment proposed by legislative leaders, Sen. Frederica Wilson asked some fellow black lawmakers today what they thought.

Sen. Chris Smith quipped: "Is he black?"

Smith went on to note that, in committee meetings this year, the NAACP was represented by "white people." He said some of the black lawmakers got a chuckle out of that. Smith said he doesn't support the NAACP's position on the proposed constitutional amendment by the group FairDistricts, which seeks to weaken the power of the Legislature over drawing some legislative and congressional political boundaries. Smith said he doesn't support a rival amendment proposed initially by Republican lawmakers.

Smith said the current case law and system works fine, though he acknowledged that there's an imbalance in the number of Republican seats when compared to the number of Republican voters in the state.

While the issues of redistricting often boil down to questions of race, the politics in the Capitol aren't so black and white. The leader of the black caucus, Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando, said he's a co-sponsor of the legislative redistricting amendment. He said he worries the FairDistricts amendment could some endanger minority-majority seats.

As a co-sponsor of the new amendment, then, Siplin is being indirectly accused in Russell's letter of not caring about minority voting rights. What's he think of that?

"What do you think of that?" Siplin countered (tough getting answers this morning). "You know my record around here for the last ten years." Siplin did say he was going to try to improve the legislative amendment in today's redistricting committee meeting. More later.

--Marc Caputo

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 12:29pm]

    

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