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Politics

Senate Leaders Andy Gardiner and Nan Rich Spar Over Redistricting

September 7, 2011 - 6:00pm

With buzz growing that she is considering challenging Gov. Rick Scott in 2014, state Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston came out swinging this week at the redistricting process -- leading her Republican counterpart in the Florida Senate, Andy Gardiner of Orlando, to fire back.

On Wednesday, Rich railed against the redistricting process, giving a letter to incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, that chambers point man on the issue, calling for an expedited and transparent process.

In the letter, Rich took umbrage at previous comments Gaetz had made before attacking the redistricting process back in 2002.

On numerous occasions, you have consistently said that I complained that I was unable to present a map of my own during redistricting 10 years ago. This is, quite simply, incorrect, Rich wrote. The wrong to which I have made claim (and one you can right as well) is the fact that the redistricting 10 years ago was cloaked in secrecy and maps were drawn in back rooms out of sight of the public and members of the minority party. You can and should right that wrong by keeping this process completely transparent from start to finish. Not for me -- but for all Floridians.

Rich noted that the final district lines would not be approved until August 2012 -- only a few months before the general election. She insisted the Legislature could start working on congressional lines later this month when committee meetings convene in Tallahassee with a completion date of Jan. 13, 2012.

As the supermajority in control, the drawing pen rests in your hands and those of your fellow Republicans, Rich continued. I must, however, draw your attention again to the critical need for an expedited timeline for map production, review, and submission to the Legislature.

If we wait until late in the legislative session to vote on maps, we run the real risk of not only necessitating additional and expensive special legislative sessions but also creating a chaotic election cycle, Rich added. Such a tumultuous scenario may benefit incumbents, but will certainly shortchange our citizens and embarrass our state.

Republicans responded late Wednesday when Gardiner fired back with a statement.

For Senator Rich to claim that the 2002 maps were drawn in a shroud of secrecy is a mischaracterization of the past and an injustice to the people of Florida, Gardiner said. I was a freshman legislator alongside Senator Rich 10 years ago and know what truly occurred. I find her manufactured version of history inexcusable. You cannot rewrite history simply because things did not turn out the way you wanted.

Our current redistricting process is the same one Senator Rich and many of her Democratic colleagues reviewed in committee a decade ago -- they had the chance to voice concerns along with other Floridians given the opportunity for public testimony, Gardiner continued. Redistricting bills received the same treatment as any other pieces of legislation. They were thoroughly vetted and reviewed in committees and heard by all members of the Legislature on both the House and Senate floors.

Gardiner praised Gaetz and his House counterpart on redistricting, incoming Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

To shed light on her misstatement, this is the most open process of its kind and a testament to the current leaderships promise to listen before suggesting the fate of our states district lines, said Gardiner. I commend Senator Gaetz and Representative Weatherford for continuing to honorably lead the redistricting effort and for diligently traveling the state to hear Floridians face-to-face.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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