Florida party chairs rough it up before redistricting tour renewsby John Kennedy | August 15th, 2011
With the Legislature’s redistricting road show opening tonight in South Florida, Republicans and Democratic party bosses are doing their best to play the warm-up act.
Florida GOP Chairman Dave Bitner wrote his Democratic counterpart, Rod Smith, a stinging letter Monday, ripping him for claiming current legislative and congressional district boundaries make Florida “one of the most malapportioned states in the United States.”
Bitner pointed out in his letter that Smith, then a state senator, largely supported the map-making in 2002 that created the boundaries he’s now ridiculing.
Smith also was a member of a Senate Redistricting Committee that, like this year’s version, has failed to produce any proposed maps during its public hearing tour. Past news accounts produced by Bitner also place Smith – Zelig-like – behind moves that helped him win re-election, pulling Democrats from a fellow Democrat’s district and cutting adrift voters in Marion County who wanted to be included in the Senate district he served.
Instead, these Marion County voters were divided across four Senate districts in 2002. Such fracturing and incumbent favoritism would be outlawed under two new constitutional amendments approved by voters last fall and backed by Democratic allies.
“Chairman Smith, your hypocrisy is especially troubling because you are a former member of the Florida Legislature,” Bitner wrote. “You took an oath to uphold the constitution and the laws of Florida when you were sworn into office. You promised the citizens you represented that you would act in their best interest.”
Bitner concluded, “You can stop your boisterous partisan rhetoric that belies the documented legislative record that you undeniably possess.”
Smith fired back in a letter, noting that Bitner didn’t really refute how out of whack Florida district boundaries are, and that Republican lawmakers last year vigorously fought the constitutional amendment drive aimed at making districts more compact.
“Your letter is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to distract from producing the maps and the transparency Florida voters demanded,” Smith wrote. “Instead of writing letters, your party’s leaders should be opening the backroom door and sharing the maps.
”Let’s stop the political games,” the Democrat added. “Let’s make certain the will of the people is implemented by this very unwilling Republican Legislature.”
The Legislature’s current redistricting public hearing tour resumes tonight in Stuart, at the Blake Library, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Lawmakers move to Boca Raton Tuesday morning, for a hearing at Florida Atlantic University, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.