Allen West, R-Plantation, told a homeowners group on Tuesday that he’d like his Palm Beach-Broward District 22 to remain the way it is, divided nearly evenly between Republican and Democratic voters.
BOCA RATON — With the GOP-controlled Florida legislature proposing redistricting maps that would throw U.S. Rep. Allen West into a Democrat-leaning district, South Florida Republicans have launched an effort to make West’s district more favorable to the incumbent.
And West, R-Plantation, told a homeowners group on Tuesday that he’d like his Palm Beach-Broward District 22 to remain the way it is, divided nearly evenly between Republican and Democratic voters.
Partisan and incumbent concerns have held sway for centuries in redistricting. But Florida voters in November 2010 approved a constitutional amendment that forbids favoring or disfavoring incumbents or political parties. The new law also requires that districts be compact and make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries where feasible.
“I’m very happy with the type of district that I have here in District 22,” West told a crowd of about 50 at a Federation of Boca Raton Homeowner Associations meeting.
West, whose home in Plantation is outside the current District 22 boundaries, also told the group that his wife recently looked at houses in Boca Raton, which figures to be a key part of District 22 under any scenario.
Democrats slightly outnumbered Republicans in District 22 when West was elected in November 2010. But proposals released by state House and Senate redistricting committees would make the district roughly 41 percent Democratic and 33 percent Republican by moving GOP-leaning areas of northern Palm Beach County into District 16, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta.
The close partisan balance of the current District 22, West said, means “I’ve got to go out and I’ve got to present myself to people.”
In districts that heavily favor one party or another, West said, “people can just go right down the line and say ‘This is how I’m going to be’ because they don’t have to worry about ever not being reelected. So I think that we’ve got to look at how do we make these congressional districts competitive so that people have to get out there and present their ideas.”
Broward County Republicans this week launched a SaveAllenWest.com website, in hopes of making West’s district more favorable for his reelection. The Palm Beach County GOP will promote the site to the approximately 5,000 people on its e-mail list, said county Republican Chairman Sid Dinerstein.
In a nod to Florida’s new anti-gerrymandering law, Dinerstein and Broward GOP Chairman Richard DeNapoli aren’t making overtly partisan arguments to the legislature. Instead, they contend that the proposals for District 22 don’t meet the compactness requirement of the new law and don’t make use of existing boundaries because they cut off District 22 in Palm Beach Gardens rather than extending it to the Martin County line or Jupiter Inlet. Putting those areas in District 22 would make the district more Republican.
Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz said DeNapoli “made some useful points” in a recent letter arguing that District 22 should add Republican-leaning areas in northern Palm Beach County. But Gaetz said DeNapoli won’t get special consideration and will “join the 2,200 other people who have provided testimony” since legislators began redistricting hearings last year.
Gaetz also emphasized the requirements of Florida’s new redistricting law.
“I’m a Republican and I’m a conservative Republican and I wish Congressman West well. However, as chairman of the reapportionment committee, I can neither favor nor disfavor an incumbent or political party,” Gaetz said.