Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A new question in the West-Wasserman Schultz feud: Where does West live?

Most of the she-said, he-said, back-and-forth between South Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Allen West has been good for political theater but bad for fact checkers.

If you missed it, Wasserman Schultz — a Democrat — criticized West — a Republican — this week over his support for a plan to sharply reduce federal spending and require a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. In a speech Tuesday on the floor of the U.S. House, Wasserman Schultz said the West-backed GOP plan would raise costs for Medicare beneficiaries, and that it was "unbelievable" for West to support it because he represents so many South Florida seniors.

West responded via e-mail. "Look Debbie … you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up."

See? Not a lot to check in either statement.

But as the debate ballooned into cable news drama Wednesday and Thursday, Wasserman Schultz provided an interview — and a sound bite — to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that had us scratching our heads.

Wasserman Schultz said she is West's elected representative to the House.

Blitzer stopped when he heard that. "So you're saying he lives in your district, he doesn't live in his own district?"

"Yes," Wasserman Schultz said, "congressman West is a constituent of the 20th Congressional District, but represents the 22nd."

To win a seat on the city council, you have to live in that city when you take office. To win a seat in the state House, or the state Senate, you also have to live in the district you represent. The obvious question is why would it work differently for Congress.

The U.S. Constitution, that's why. The requirements for U.S. House members are spelled out in Article I, Section 2: "No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen."

We're not sure why the framers loved all the negatives, but in other words: U.S. House members need only live in the state they represent to be eligible for their seat.

"Remember back in 1789, things weren't like they are today," said lawyer Mark Herron, an elections expert based in Tallahassee. "A state was a state. It was just a reflection of the times, and they tried to keep it as simple as possible."

The Roanoke Times recently identified a handful of House members who lived outside their district. And West is among them, it turns out.

The address of his Plantation home puts him in Wasserman Schultz's district.

West has owned up to this before. Amid questions over residency requirements for several South Florida lawmakers in 2008, West cited federal law to the Palm Beach Post and explained, "I'm a distance runner, and I even do my 5 to 10 miles mostly in District 22."

"The U.S. Constitution says only that a person must live in the state in which he is running for Congress," said West, then a challenger to Rep. Ron Klein. "But I'm not trying to hide where I live. Yes, I live just outside the district.

"They redistrict every 10 years anyway and what are you supposed to do, move all the time?"

We won't answer that. But on the matter at hand, Wasserman Schultz is correct that she can count West as a constituent. And it's okay, according to the U.S. Constitution. We rate this claim True.

The statement

Says that U.S. Rep. Allen West is "a constituent of mine."

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Wednesday, in an interview on CNN

The ruling

West lives in Wasserman Schultz's congressional district, not his own. But it's completely legal. The U.S. Constitution only says members of Congress have to live in the state they represent. This claim is True.

A new question in the West-Wasserman Schultz feud: Where does West live? 07/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 22, 2011 4:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Siesta Key: 4 things you need to know about MTV's new Florida reality series

    Blogs

    By now you probably know MTV shot a reality series in the number one beach in America. Siesta Key, airing Monday at 10, follows a group of young adults as they navigate life in their early 20s over a summer in sunny Florida.

    The cast of Siesta Key during press interviews at Gary Kompothecras's mansion in Siesta Key. The MTV series premieres July 31 at 10 p.m.
  2. Times recommends: Rick Baker for St. Petersburg mayor

    Editorials

    St. Petersburg voters are fortunate to have two experienced candidates for mayor. Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have deep roots in the city and long records of public service. Both have helped transform St. Petersburg into an urban success story. At this moment, Baker is the better choice to keep the …

    The Tampa Bay Times editorial board recommends Rick Baker for St. Petersburg mayor. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

  3. The goal of a new program in Hillsborough schools: Read a book in English, discuss it in Spanish

    K12

    TAMPA — Giadah and Gamadiel Torres are 5-year-old twins. "We were born at the same time," is how Giadah explains their birth.

    Twins Giadah and Gamadiel Torres, 5, learn about the dual language program they will enter this year at Bellamy Elementary School. [SARAH KLEIN | Special to the Times]
  4. Why don't defensive players get more Heisman Trophy love?

    Blogs

    In a story we posted online earlier today (and coming to your doorstep in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times), I made my case for why Florida State safety Derwin James should be a preseason …

    Boston College defensive end Harold Landry didn't get any Heisman love last year, despite leading the country in sacks.
  5. Trump vowed to end DACA. Tampa Bay immigrants worry he soon will

    State Roundup

    Andrea Seabra imagined the worst if Donald Trump won: "I thought on the first day he would say, 'DACA is done' and send immigration officers to every house."

    Mariana Sanchez Ramirez, 23, poses for a photograph on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida on Wednesday. Mariana, who was born in Torreon in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, traveled with her family to the United States on a tourist's visa in 2000. She was able to stay in the U.S. and attended college after President Barack Obama's action on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in June 2012. Mariana will graduate with a degree in political science from USF next month. (CHRIS URSO   |   Times)