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The Trouble With Saving Allen West's District

The Trouble With Saving Allen West's District

By Sean Trende - January 31, 2012


The battle between "insurgents" and "establishment" in the GOP rages on in Florida, and seems to be filtering down-ticket. The latest eruption is the fight over freshman Republican Allen West's congressional district, which will become three-to-four points more Democratic in redistricting. According to the conservative blog Legal Insurrection (quoting The Shark Tank):

“After last night’s [Jan. 26] Republican Presidential debate, the candidates’ respective spinmeisters made their cases to the media as to why their guy won the debate. One of Governor Mitt Romney’s spokesmen was Florida Representative Will Weatherford, and during the course of his remarks in the ‘Spin Room,’ he shed a very dim light on the ongoing redistricting process in the Florida Legislature. . . .

“West’s congressional district inexplicably sheds the most out support as compared to all other incumbent Republican and Democrat congressmen. A few weeks back we quoted an unnamed legislator saying that ‘Allen West was screwed,’ a statement which was originally made about made five months before the purposed maps were made public, leading insiders to believe that the fix was in against Allen West. But in light of Weatherford’s comment, it is increasingly clear that this is a fait accompli.

“According to Weatherford, those preliminary maps will not change -- at the most, any additional changes would be minimal, and those changes would not make any appreciable difference from the preliminary maps. In addition, Weatherford stated that a deal was struck between him, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and Senator Don Gaetz to finalize these maps and push them through as soon as possible.”

I can’t speak to the Florida Legislature’s motives, nor to its opinion of Tea Party insurgents. But I’m pretty sure that West’s district becoming much more Democratic was more-or-less inevitable.

To start with, here’s what West’s district looks like today (taken from NationalAtlas.gov):

As you can see, it’s an oddly shaped district running up and down the Florida coast, with arms running inland at seemingly random points. Why this shape? Consider the following maps, drawn up with “Dave’s Redistricting Atlas.” They show the partisan breakdown of voting precincts in southeast Florida. Blue was heavily for Obama, red heavily for McCain, purple somewhere in the middle.

Here’s the northern half of the district:

and the southern half:

As you can see, the current map is a pretty careful gerrymander that takes in most of the reddish and reddish-purple precincts north of Miami. It carefully avoids most of the solid blue precincts that are inland, except as it needs to cross them to get to islands of inland Republican voting.

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Sean Trende is senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He is a co-author of the 2014 Almanac of American Politics and author of The Lost Majority. He can be reached at strende@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanTrende.

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