Tea party firebrand Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) announced Tuesday that he will switch districts and run for reelection in Florida’s new 18th district…
Rep. Tom Rooney’s (R-Fla.) decision earlier Tuesday to run in the open and Republican-leaning 17th district rather than the swing 18th freed West up to make the switch to the neighboring district, which is just north of his current district, which spans from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale.
“Congressman Rooney is a statesman and has been an honorable public servant to the constituents of Florida’s 16th Congressional district,” West said, referring to Rooney’s current district, which is re-numbered from 16 to 18 under the new plan. “It is my goal to continue the success Congressman Rooney has had in Florida’s 16th Congressional district in the newly proposed 18th district. I welcome the challenges and excitement that lie ahead.”
According to WaPo’s analysis of the new Florida map last week, Rooney and West were the two big losers from redistricting, with each of their home bases turning roughly four points bluer. That’s the bad news; the good news is that the 18th (i.e. the 16th) District has been more reliably Republican in recent years than West’s 22nd has. Mark Foley (yes, that Mark Foley) won reelection by huge margins there in 2002 and 2004 and then lost by less than two points amid the big blue wave of 2006 after his scandal broke. Rooney then crushed the incumbent Democrat by 20 points in 2008 and crushed his latest Democratic challenger by 30 points in 2010. Given West’s war chest and tea-party support in the primary, he should be safe.
So then, back to the lingering question: Did the dreaded GOP establishment really try to force him out by making the 22nd District more blue? I managed to goad Sean Trende of RCP into developing what he sent me yesterday into a full post, so read that now to see why he’s skeptical.
The Fair Districts Initiative amended the state’s constitution as follows:
“Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.”
So there are a few problems for West here. First, the legislature is specifically prohibited from drawing a district to favor him.
Second, and more importantly, his district has to be compact, and make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries. Go to Dave’s Redistricting site and play around with the South Florida districts. It is very, very difficult to draw a compact, purple-leaning district based in Palm Beach County that doesn’t cross city boundaries and that doesn’t also weaken Rooney in the 16th (and even that latter tactic may be impermissible, since the legislature is supposed to avoid needlessly crossing county lines).
The Initiative made it hard to play favorites even if the Republicans in charge of redistricting wanted to. In fact, West’s own wife told the Miami Herald today that she didn’t think the 22nd had been made more Democratic to disadvantage him specifically. Ah well. It’s a moot point now — unless and until any shenanigans start with redrawing the lines of the 18th. Via the Right Scoop, here’s West’s interview yesterday with Mark Levin in which he refuses to speculate on whether anyone’s out to get him. Click the image to listen.