Sunday, May 27, 2018
Politics

New election maps could hurt Allen West, other GOP incumbents

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's new redistricting standards, coupled with the 10-year shift in population, have forced Republicans to do what is rarely done in politics — sacrifice incumbents — and that is not going over well with some Republicans.

The possible casualties include U.S. Rep. Allen West, whose Broward to Palm Beach-based district would become more Democratic in every map proposed by both the state House and Senate.

Broward Republicans have launched a website — "saveallenwest.com." — and are mounting a campaign to pressure legislators to revamp the maps to make them more in line with what they believe are the legal requirements of the new Fair Districts amendments. The changes they suggest would also make the district more favorable to the re-election of West, one of two black Republicans in Congress.

"I don't believe when they drew this they were adequately trying to adhere to the constitutional requirements,'' said Richard DeNapoli, chairman of the Broward County Republican Party, who wrote an "open letter" to members of the House and Senate redistricting committees urging them to redraw the district.

The crux of his argument: The district arbitrarily reaches into west Broward, Democrat territory, to pick up West's home in Plantation but fails to keep compact a swath of the coast in northern Palm Beach County populated with Republicans.

West is not the only Republican to face a potentially tougher fight under the proposed maps. The districts of Republican congressmen Steve Southerland of Panama City, Sandy Adams of Orlando, Tom Rooney of Jupiter and David Rivera of Miami would continue to lean Republican but become more competitive for Democrats.

The greatest Republican losses would occur in the state House, where each of the five maps proposed by the House Redistricting Committee appear to sacrifice seven to 11 Republican seats, according to an analysis of voting performance by the Times/Herald.

Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, St. Petersburg Rep. Jeff Brandes, Tampa Reps. James Grant and Shawn Harrison and Gainesville Rep. Keith Perry, for example, would find themselves in districts that favored Democrats Barack Obama in 2008 and Alex Sink for governor in 2010.

The Senate's proposed map shifts at least one Orlando Republican seat to Democrats, breaks apart the districts of several senators leaving because of term limits, and then creates relatively safe seats for the remaining 29 incumbents, both Republican and Democrat.

Republicans say the proposed maps are the natural consequence of the new Fair Districting standards, imposed by 63 percent of the voters in 2010 despite intense GOP opposition. The maps must also be reviewed by state and federal courts to determine whether they comply with the constitutional redistricting standards, as well as federal voting rights protections for minorities.

"Politics didn't enter into the drawing of these maps,'' said Rep. Will Weatherford, the Wesley Chapel Republican who heads the House Redistricting Committee and who is scheduled to become House speaker next year.

"The Republican-led Legislature right now is not going to create an incumbent protection program for redistricting,'' he said. "The time to win seats is not during redistricting. This is the time to draw legally compliant maps."

Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville, the Senate redistricting chairman and incoming Senate president, agrees. "My job is not to save Republican seats or Democratic seats. My job is to follow the law,'' he said. Both he and Weatherford said they are open to suggestions from Broward Republicans to make the district "more compliant" with the Constitution but not to protect West.

Democrats, however, aren't happy either. They say that the self-imposed losses by the GOP aren't deep enough. There are currently 81 Republicans and 39 Democrats in the state House of Representatives. In the Senate, Republicans outnumber Democrats, 29-11.

Statewide, Democrats comprise 40 percent of all registered voters, while Republicans represent 35 percent. About 20 percent have no party affiliation, with the remaining 5 percent connected to minor parties.

Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, believes the sacrificed Republican seats are part of a 10-year strategy to preserve Republican power. "If you draw 70 safe Republican seats you'll probably keep that for 10 years but if you draw 20 marginal seats, there is a greater chance you could lose all of them in a good Democratic year,'' he said.

The Senate Redistricting Committee is scheduled to vote out its maps on Wednesday, the second day of the legislative session that begins next week, and bring them to a final floor vote by Jan. 20.

News artist Darla Cameron contributed to this report.

Comments
More LGBT issues loom as justices near wedding cake decision

More LGBT issues loom as justices near wedding cake decision

WASHINGTON — A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through courts and will continue, no matter the outcome in the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision in the case of a Colorado baker who would not create a wedding cake for a s...
Published: 05/26/18
Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

I may have cracked the code. Found a way to sell doing the right thing. Discovered a method of persuasion in certain matters of fairness, conscience and the greater good.Like giving our fellow Americans a second chance.When morality-based arguments d...
Published: 05/26/18
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18