Florida's ballot initiative to ban gerrymandering starts to draw foes

Forget that the governor's office, a U.S. Senate seat and every other statewide office are open this election cycle. The 2010 campaign that could have the farthest-reaching implications for Florida is a redistricting ballot initiative that would change the way congressional and legislative districts are drawn.

"We're going to establish some fairness standards so the legislators can't choose their own voters and we the voters have a chance to really pick our legislators," Miami lawyer Ellen Freidin, leader of FairDistrictsFlorida.org, said in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9.

If the two constitutional amendments pass, congressional and legislative voting districts could not be designed to favor any political party or incumbent. Districts would be neatly shaped and take city and county boundaries into account, rather than the current system where state lawmakers use computer programs to map districts based on voter demographics and partisan leanings.

"The city of Temple Terrace right now has four different members of Congress representing it. That shouldn't be," said Freidin.

There is no organized opposition lined up yet, but Republican lawmakers with a stake in protecting their majority are likely to mount an aggressive campaign against it. Though prominent Republicans, including former comptroller Bob Milligan and lawyers Thom Rumberger and Nathaniel Reed are among FairDistrict's co-chairmen, it is heavily funded by Democratic-leaning groups such as the Service Employees International Union.

State House Majority Leader Adam Hasner sounded the alarm last weekend at a state GOP conference.

"It is a stealth agenda funded by the left to do in the courts what they can't do at the ballot box," Hasner thundered. "This is the top priority of Democrats in 2010 and it must be stopped. … The 2010 election is still not going to be easy. The permanent Obama campaign — Obama 2.0, Organizing for America — is already setting up shop right here in Florida."

Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Yes, we can, evermore

Here's a number that may worry the Florida GOP: 11. That's the number of paid staffers Obama 2.0 has in Florida at the moment.

We checked out the new statewide headquarters for Organizing for America, Barack Obama's grass roots organization, in Tampa last week. It's a busy crew led by statewide director Ashley Walker, who said that in two months volunteers have held at least 1,000 events across the state, ranging from canvassing to phone banks to attending town hall meetings.

Volunteers kicked off the opening of the Ybor City headquarters, 1702 N 14th St., with a phone bank, encouraging support for health care reform.

Quote of the week

"It's the Second Amendment — not the 11th — the Second Amendment." — Charlie Crist on the importance of the right to bear arms.

What's in a name

In case you wondered, soon-to-be Sen. George LeMieux's name in French means "the best," though some Florida editorial boards are not convinced. Crist's pick of LeMieux was panned as self-serving by the editorial boards of the St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Palm Beach Post, and Florida Today of the Space Coast.

Winner

of the week

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores. While Charlie Crist traveled to every TV major market inviting venerable public servants and would-be Senate appointees to fawn over him before the cameras, Young showed off a mischievous streak. Rather than just tell Crist's staff no thanks over the phone, he showed up to Crist's interview in Pinellas dressed like he was in the midst of mowing the lawn and told the surprised governor had no interest in the job — nor, apparently, his dog and pony show.

Loser

of the week

State Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg. Justice is running for Young's Pinellas-Hillsborough congressional district and the prospect of Young retiring for a Senate appointment must have had Justice's heart pounding in anticipation of an open seat. Alas, Young sounds like a man ready for a 21st term, which means Justice is back to trying to convince people he has a snowball's chance of winning.

Florida's ballot initiative to ban gerrymandering starts to draw foes 08/29/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 29, 2009 9:22pm]

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