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District proposal looks east, west

Residents of Floral City and half of Inverness may be represented in the state Legislature by Chuck Smith of Brooksville next year.

Meanwhile, Spring Hill and the rest of western Hernando County may turn to Paul Hawkes, a Crystal River Republican, instead of Smith.

That's how the lines have been drawn in a Democratic proposal for new state House districts, unveiled Thursday. Using the results of the 1990 census, the Legislature is redrawing the boundaries to try to make all the districts the same size in population.

Next week the House Reapportionment Committee is scheduled to take up the proposal and others, including a Republican plan.

The Democratic proposal gives Hawkes, who is now representing District 26, the Republican retirement communities of western Hernando. For Smith, a Democrat, the proposal takes his District 47 into areas that are more rural and Democratic.

"It's creating a Democratic district," Hawkes said. "There's no effort to create a Republican district, (but) the fact that Democrats don't want registered Republicans is going to come to my benefit."

Smith, who has served in the House since 1978, denied that the proposal is an attempt to gerrymander a more Democratic district for him. He said that population distributions play a greater role than party politics in determining district lines.

His only complaint with the proposal is the loss of northeast Pasco County. Instead, his district is being extended east through southern Sumter County to part of Lake County. He said he would like to trade the Lake County part back for his Pasco constituency.

"I would suspect that, in the final analysis, it's going to be pretty close to what you see there, but with some minor variations, and that doesn't particularly disturb me," he said.

Hawkes, a first-term representative, said he's happy that most of Citrus would remain in his district under the proposal. But he added that he would prefer to retain more of Citrus County, even though that would make the district less Republican.

"These are the people who know who Paul Hawkes is, they know what he has done and they've elected me before," he said.

His only announced opponent, Democrat Lynne Oliver of Crystal River, also hopes more of Citrus remains in the district.

"I'd hate to lose Inverness," said Oliver, who owns a day-care center. "I have a lot of supporters over there and a lot of friends, and that's our county seat."

While the exact boundary proposal is difficult to determine from maps, it appears to follow County Road 581, which runs north from the Hernando County line, bisects Inverness and continues out of town as Turner Camp Road.

The southeast part of Citrus that would be added to Smith's district has a population of 22,153. The western Hernando County portion that would be added to Hawkes' district has 30,583 people.

Hawkes' district also would lose most of its share of Marion County, except for a short part of the State Road 200 corridor.

In Smith's new district, 52 percent of the registered voters would be Democrats and 41 percent Republicans. In Hawkes' district, Democratic registration would fall from 52 to 50 percent and Republican registration would grow from 40 to 42 percent.

Both districts will have to shrink to meet the target population of 108,000. Hawkes' district now has 151,000 people, and Smith's has 174,000.