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Charlie Crist hails Florida Supreme Court’s approval of new congressional map

The Florida Supreme Court gave its blessing gave its blessing Wednesday to a congressional districts map that was picked by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis back in October.

The high court had ruled in July that the Legislature gerrymandered eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts in violation of the 2012 Fair District amendments. It ordered lawmakers to come up with a new map within 100 days. However, the Legislature failed to do so, something justices said Wednesday that they “did not anticipate.”

Lewis considered seven different maps that were submitted to him. He ultimately chose the one submitted by the League of Women Voters and other groups whose lawsuit initiated the dispute.

The Fair District amendments passed in 2010 by the Florida electorate mandated that congressional and state legislative districts would be drawn without favor or disfavor to a political party or an incumbent, without  racial or language discrimination, and that districts would consist of contiguous territory.

In its elaborate ruling, the Supreme Court kept the map verified by Lewis.

In the Tampa Bay area, the 13th Congressional District will stay to the Pinellas County side of the Bay and be more Democratic leaning, and Kathy Castor’s CD 14 seat will be a little less.

Charlie Crist, running in the Democratic primary in CD 13 and considered the odds-on favorite, was delighted to hear the news.

“There’s no place like home, especially a home with fair congressional districts like we now have in Pinellas County,” he said in a prepared statement. “The people’s voice will finally be whole, loud, and clear when we fight for fair wages, new jobs, equality, education, and protecting our shorelines.”

The new map redraws the 5th Congressional District, now held by Democrat Corinne Brown, from a north-south district into an east-west one.

That cuts into U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s 2nd District, excising much of Graham’s Democratic base in Gadsden, Jefferson and Leon counties. Her district would keep most of Tallahassee, her hometown. Graham has maintained that she will continue to run for the seat, which will be much more Republican leaning.

The 10th Congressional District held by Republican Dan Webster becomes much more Democratic in composition.

Republican John Mica’s 7th Congressional District seat becomes more Democratic, but analysts don’t expect  it to hurt his re-election chances.

The Supreme Court is limiting the time for filing a motion for rehearing or clarification to five days from Wednesday, and three days for a response from the date the motion is filed.

In separate opinion, Justice James E.C. Perry wrote that with Florida being such a competitive state electorally, it suggests that its member of Congress should be split relatively evenly between the two parties. “Yet, the Republican Party holds a virtual supermajority,” he writes. “The Republican political advantage is, in large part, a result of the party’s influence on the redrawing of boundary lines.”

Justice Charles Canady wrote a fiery dissent.

“Although I do not suggest that the majority intends to act arbitrarily, I cannot avoid the conclusion that the deeply flawed approach adopted here – as in Apportionment VII – does serious harm to the judicial process,” Canady wrote. “The result of the daunting burden placed on the Legislature is that the challengers – whose motivations have been immune from scrutiny – have been virtually guaranteed to prevail in obtaining the approval of a map that suits them. It is highly problematic that the nontransparent process used to produce CP-1 (the map favored by the League of Women Voters) thus has been allowed to trump the process in the Legislature that was implemented after Apportionment VII was handed down.”

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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