Tea Parties Drawing New District Maps for Legislature, Congress
Network challenges critics to come up with their own plans; NAACP says it will
Around the State
A statewide tea party coalition says it will propose new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts in Florida, and one leader is challenging other organizations to put up or stop "insulting the process."
The Tea Party Network -- an alliance of some 70 tea parties around the state -- will present a congressional, Senate and House plan "in the near future," said Henry Kelley, head of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party.
Among those leading the map-drawing effort are the Peoples Tea Party in Jacksonville, as well as tea groups in Santa Rosa and St Augustine, he said.
Patricia Sullivan, head of the Tea Party Network, said a steering committee representing 13 tea parties and 9/12 organizations, is tracking redistricting issues. But, she cautioned, "The Tea Party Network doesn't speak for groups, or for the movement."
Meantime, Kelley rapped other organizations for taking potshots from the sidelines.
"We have seen many groups already complaining about the process, and they do not appear to be taking the steps to submit their own plan. It was disappointing to see the very groups who pushed for FairDistricts -- the NAACP, League of Women Voters, and Democrats -- to insult the process when they won't even spend a few hours working together to at least craft a plan," Kelley said.
On Sunday, he told Sunshine State News:
"In my own town of Fort Walton Beach, these groups are having a lunch Monday to discuss these matters, but are not asking people to attend the actual meeting Monday night in Fort Walton with the Redistricting Committee."
Redistricting is the ultimate political football as the Legislature kicks off a process to redraw the boundaries for all 120 state House seats, all 40 state Senate districts and 27 U.S. House seats, including two brand new districts.
Though Republicans are firmly in control of the Legislature, passage of the FairDistricts amendments last November could moderate partisan influence and subject the final maps to court challenges.
All legislative and congressional seats will be up for election in 2012.
The League of Women Voters, which was instrumental in supporting the FairDistricts campaign, said it has "no plans to draw and submit maps, nor do we have a map that we favor."
"We are looking to the Florida Legislature to do their duty and follow the redistricting standards which are set out in the state Constitution," said Jessica Lowe-Minor, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff, per his standing policy, declined to speak to Sunshine State News on the record.
But another group tweaked by Kelley, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said it will offer its own proposal.
"The state NAACP is working on a plan at this time, and it will be completed soon," Trevor D. Harvey, president of the Sarasota County NAACP, told Sunshine State News.
Kelley expects plenty of debate at the state and local level, fueled by the legal requirements and potential litigious land mines embedded in the FairDistricts amendments.
"Much has been made of the language of using geographical boundaries, but the amendment calls for use of existing political boundaries," he notes.
"I would ask the [Redistricting] Committee to consider that, in my area of the Panhandle for instance, Pensacola Beach, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City Beach have far more in common with each other, across three counties, than the north end of the same counties which is much more rural and farming intensive.
"The language allows for use of existing political boundaries, and I suggest that be used as well as the geographic boundaries," Kelley recommended.
Kelley applauded Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon for "creating an open and transparent process toward the complex process of creating new districts."
Reach Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.