Congressman Allen West

In light of redistricting efforts in Tallahassee, Broward GOP chairman Richard DeNapoli issued a lengthy legal memo in defense of Congressman Allen West’s district. Before Christmas, Colleen Stolberg, the Broward GOP vice chair,  launched an email campaign urging Broward voters to contact Tallahassee before districts were finalized.

Mr. DeNapoli issued his memo as a private citizen. He lays out several arguments in this memo: first, the proposed district includes western portions of Broward county in a district dominated by coastal regions of Broward and Palm Beach counties. (While they love Congressman West, many GOP voters in Plantation and Sunrise tell RED BROWARD they fear their interests will be overshadowed or ignored by this new district.) Second, the proposed district does not live up to the requirements of Amendments 5 and 6.

Finally, Democrats from all over Florida LOVE this proposed district. They believe they would unseat Congressman West and hold this seat for the next ten years no matter who they run. Here are portions from DeNapoli’s memo:

“I am writing as a follow up to Broward Republican Party Vice-Chair Colleen Stolberg’s email entitled ‘Save Allen West,’ regarding the redistricting proposals for Congressional District 22.  She has created a website called www.saveallenwest.com.  A lot of us serve in political and non-political capacities, but my intention here is to express my concern as a citizen and registered voter of Florida that the proposed maps for Congressional District 22 do not meet Florida’s constitutional requirements.

In my opinion, none of the proposed Florida Senate or Florida House maps for Congressional District 22 conform to Florida’s constitutional requirements contained within Amendments 5 and 6 that districts be compact and, where feasible, ‘utilize existing political and geographical boundaries.’[1]  Florida’s redistricting is very important and the maps eventually decided upon will control our districts for the next 10 years.

The primary problem is that all of the Florida House and Florida Senate proposed maps for Congressional District 22 go through great pains to include western portions of Broward County in the new district while excluding large portions of northern Palm Beach County that would form a natural political and geographical boundary.  Congressman West’s district should extend to the Palm Beach county line (a political boundary) or at least the geographical boundary of the Jupiter Inlet, as the existing District 22 almost reaches. It should not include these portions of western Broward County.

The apparent official rationale for excluding these northern Palm Beach County areas is that a single person sent on behalf of the Palm Beach County Commission stated at the Stuart redistricting hearing that ‘some of the northern municipalities of Palm Beach County share some similarities with our friends in the ‘Treasure Coast’. … So long as the districts are compact and follow municipal and geographical boundaries then it’s OK if there is certain overlap in these communities of similar interest.’  Quite a few others at the same hearing simply expressed concern that the ‘Treasure Coast,’ which they identified as ‘Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties,’ be ‘kept together.’ [2] Many statements were made by members of the public at the Boca Raton meeting about keeping “coastal communities” together. [3]  

‘Communities of interest’ is not an official standard for redistricting under Florida law.  While it may be considered, it cannot conflict with or take precedence over the requirement that we use existing political and geographical boundaries.

These northern Palm Beach County coastal regions are in the existing Congressional District 22, and no existing or even proposed State House or State Senate seats remove such large portions of northern Palm Beach County and place them within districts to the north. Amendments 5 and 6 impose the same requirements across State Senate and State House districts.  The proposed State Senate District 25 (currently represented by Sen. Bogdanoff) map actually extends the northern boundary of the current State Senate district from Juno Beach to the Jupiter Inlet. The Congressional District 22 map does the opposite.

There does not seem to be any legal rationale or testimony supporting the inclusion of the western portions of Broward in the new district.  One may guess that this was done so that Congressman West, who resides in the City of Plantation slightly outside of the current District 22, would now live in the newly drawn district.”

DeNapoli includes quotes from big-time Democrats like Steve Shale, the 2008 Director of the Obama/Biden campaign in Florida. “The Allen West seat … switched parties twice in the last decade, first when Ron Klein beat Clay Shaw, then when West beat Klein. From where I sit, it is poised to do it again.  First, West already had to gain residents in order to come up to the target population, then right off the bat lost some of his Palm Beach voters to Rooney.  This meant he had to gain population from somewhere, and largely that somewhere is Ted Deutch’s highly Democratic and over populated CD 19.  If there is a GOP loser in redistricting, it is West.”