Florida GOP trying to force Allen West out of Congress through redistricting? Update: Bad rap? Update: Another defense of Florida GOP plan

Via Legal Insurrection and our own J.E. Dyer in the Greenroom. According to WaPo, the new congressional map under consideration in Florida’s legislature would make West’s district four points more Democratic than it is now — a tough haul for a guy who lost that district by nine points in 2008 before riding the big red wave to a nine-point win last year. Turns out Will Weatherford, the GOP’s state House redistricting chairman, is also a Mitt Romney fan. Coincidence, or evidence that the Republican establishment is trying to push one of the tea party’s biggest rock stars towards the door? Javier Manjarres of the Shark Tank confronted Weatherford about it last Thursday and was told there’s little that can be done about the map due to legal guidelines about redistricting. But here’s what Manjarres reported back on January 10:

So why would the “most conservative legislature” in Florida’s history look the other way as West’s congressional district lines are re-drawn? Is the fix really in to knock Allen West out of Congress? About five months ago, a very high ranking member of the Florida legislature gave me a very disturbing prediction regarding redistricting- “Allen West is screwed.” Take note that comment was made five months ago, long before the proposed maps were made public…

There is no love lost between the Florida legislature and Congressman Allen West, who has proven to be the anti-Republican establishment congressman. Back in the 2008 election cycle when West unsuccessfully ran for Congress, Republicans in the legislature did not support West. Former indicted Republican Party of Florida Boss Jim Greer and Governor Charlie Crist stayed out of the race until the very end, even after West’s Republican primary race was over…

You may ask yourself why would the Florida GOP legislature not protect one of the most respected and beloved congressman in Washington D.C.? Could the reasons be as simple as sheer arrogance and self-political preservation by the Tallahassee elites?

Follow the link for Manjarres’s theories on motives, not all of which involve establishment animosity towards West. His post this weekend got enough attention that Weatherford felt compelled to post this to his Facebook page this afternoon:

As the House Chairman of Redistricting, I have the responsibility to ensure there is a fair, open, and legally compliant process. The newly approved constitutional amendments, passed by more than 60% of Florida voters, require the legislature to follow a set of standards. This is the first time the legislature has been required to follow these legal standards

These new standards have resulted in disrupting the current districts for incumbents. The Tampa Bay Times stated that the House, Senate, and Congressional maps represent “a record-breaking shakeup in incumbency.” It has been reported that at least 38 members of the Florida legislature do not currently live in their district.

There are rumors that the Florida Legislature has targeted Congressman Allen West. This is patently false. I personally have supported and endorsed Allen West. I will continue to support this extraordinary member of Congress who has brought a much needed conservative voice to Washington, D.C.

However, my personal support cannot and will not trump the Constitution.

As Dyer notes, Tom Rooney’s district is also about to get more Democratic — and, coincidentally, Rooney also happens to be a stalwart conservative. Even so, it’s odd to me that “establishment Republicans” would zero in on West when West has proven to be an effective gap-bridger between “the establishment” and the grassroots at times. Remember when he went to bat for Boehner on the debt-ceiling deal when other tea-party freshmen were balking? It’s true that he’s had harsher things to say about the leadership recently and he’s also clearly not a huge fan of Romney’s, but go back to the Manjarres post I quoted above. This has, allegedly, been in the works for at least five months, dating back to around the time that West was encouraging grassroots conservatives to accept the debt-ceiling compromise. Why hand over a congressional seat held by a guy who’s capable of raising boatloads of money for the party and of reconciling tea partiers to a party apparatus from which they feel disaffected?

Update: Brand new from Manjarres, a defense of Weatherford — and Romney:

While the conservative movement’s distrust of Romney is both valid and understandable, it is straining credulity to begin to believe that Mitt Romney or his presidential campaign are in any way attempting to “screw over” Congressman Allen West in the redistricting process here in Florida, and this certainly applies to Representative Weatherford as well…

Is another presidential campaign(s) or political action committees fueling this media frenzy about Romney and his supporters in a last minute attempt to muck up the waters enough to make a difference in the Florida primary election and beyond?

In summary, do I believe that the ‘higher’ authorities in Florida’s Legislature struck a backroom deal that would benefit their future political aspirations and give the stiff-arm to Congressman Allen West? My answer is a resounding ‘Yes.’

In other words, he thinks someone wants West out but that it’s unlikely Romney or Weatherford is the prime mover. Fair enough — it does seem strange to me that Mitt would risk alienating the grassroots even further by quietly maneuvering against their favorite congressman — but Manjarres himself has raised doubts about Weatherford before. Go back to his January 10 post describing how lukewarm Florida’s Republican establishment was to West’s candidacy in 2010. Quote:

Crist endorsed West four days prior to the general election, and Greer showed his support by writing West a personal check of $500 several weeks before the general election. This was also the case during the 2010 election cycle as state legislators sat on their hands, much like they did with Senator Marco Rubio. The Rubio saga is well documented, as the backdoor dirty deals and threats weighed heavy on the Rubio for Senate campaign against Crist.

In 2010, Will Weatherford, who is the current State House Redistricting Chairman, also supported Crist over Rubio before Crist left the GOP and ran as an Independent.

Update: Sean Trende, the senior elections analyst at RealClearPolitics and author of “The Lost Majority,” e-mails to say that Florida’s redistricting law has tied the GOP’s hands on this. They have very little leeway on how they draw the new lines. Quote:

I can’t speak to the FL legislature’s motives, but it is nearly impossible to craft an R-leaning, non-Cuban district in SE FL under the current laws and comply with the Fair Districts Act. West’s current district runs up and down the Gold Coast, stretching inland in arms to gobble up Republican-leaning areas. It’s pretty thorough, and even then it is a swing district. Under Fair Districts, the Republican legislature can’t do that anymore. In fact, it is arguably stretching what it can do under the current iteration of West’s district. . .

If he addresses this at greater length in a post at RCP, I’ll link it in Headlines.