24 May 2005

Democrat calls Bush on redistricting flip-flop

For years, Governor Jeb Bush has opposed the idea of an independent commission drawing the districts for the state's congressmen and legislators. Instead, the governor supports the politicians drawing their own districts - essentially the elected officials choosing their voters instead of the voters choosing their elected officials. Now, it appears the governor has a change of heart.

Last weekend, the Orlando Sentinel and FloridapolitiX.com reported that Governor Jeb Bush now supports an independent commission for redistricting. The only catch ... he only supports it in California. Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, who like Bush is a Republican, is pushing a ballot initiative in the Golden State that would require an independent commission to draw congressional and legislative districts instead of the politicians themselves. The difference between the California and Florida plans? California has a Democratic legislature, while Florida's legislature is controlled by the GOP.

Now a Florida Democrat is calling the governor on his redistricting flip-flop. Representative Tim Ryan (D-Dania Beach), a co-founder of the Committee for Fair Elections which is pushing the constitutional amendment creating the independent commission in Florida, has written a letter to the governor, praising him for his change in position and inviting him to join his effort to provide fair elections in Florida. The text of the letter follows.

Dear Governor Bush:

I was thrilled to hear that you had embraced the idea, and even held a fundraiser here in Florida, to support the concept of having an independent redistricting commission, not politicians, draw the boundaries for state legislative and congressional districts – until I realized you were only supporting the idea for California, and not for Florida.

Both our states have seen one party use gerrymandering to unfairly dominate their respective state legislatures. In Florida, the Republicans have used squiggly lines on district maps to give themselves a 2-to-1 advantage in both the state legislature and Congressional delegation, despite the fact that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state. In California, Democrats have pretty much done the same. But just because both parties do it, that doesn’t make it right.

So how about it, governor? I’ll endorse an independent redistricting commission in California – even though it’ll mean fewer legislative seats for my fellow Democrats – if you’ll join AARP, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and a host of other good-government groups and endorse the idea of taking redistricting out of the hands of politicians with a vested interest in the process here in Florida

I look forward to joining you and Governor Schwarzenegger at a future fundraiser in support of reforming Florida's redistricting effort, along with Attorney General Charlie Crist, Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings and Members of Congress Ander Crenshaw, Mark Foley, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ginny Brown-Waite, who all voted for independent redistricting as members of the State Senate in 1993.

Sincerely,

Tim Ryan
State Representative, District 100

P.S. I hope this little note won’t make you veto any bills you might see with my name on them.

Just Read, Maddox!

Scott Maddox has been in the state governor's race for just about a week, and his web site is now up and running. ScottMaddox.com is a great looking site - very professional and sleek. The only problem is that the opening message has a spelling error.

"I" before "E", except after "C." Apparently, the Maddox team missed that day in elementary school. Unfortunately for the campaign, the opening paragraph of the web site reads, " For more information about the campaign and Mayor Maddox, sign-up to recieve updates or email info@scottmaddox.com." (emphasis added)

Governor Jeb Bush started a program in the Sunshine State, entitled "Just Read, Florida!" Maybe Scott Maddox should sign up his campaign staff.

Senate reaches deal on filibusters - Winners & Losers

Go to AmericanpolitiX.com and read a summary with feedback from the right and left regarding the filibuster deal.

The story can be found at:

http://americanpolitix.blogspot.com/2005/05/senate-reaches-deal-on-filibusters.html

23 May 2005

Should Butterworth stay in school?

Florida Democrats are falling all over themselves, prematurely declaring victory in next year's race for state attorney general. Former officeholder Bob Butterworth, who is currently the dean of the St. Thomas University School of Law, is considering another run for the office he held for sixteen years. Party's leaders are already implying that they would clear the primary if Butterworth decides to run, and Republicans are already salivating at the chance to run against him. Instead of leaving the halls of St. Thomas, maybe Butterworth should consider just staying in school.

Butterworth has been an exceptional public servant for Florida. He has served as the Broward County sheriff, the mayor of Sunrise, an assistant state attorney, and the secretary of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Butterworth was elected to the office of attorney general in 1986 and served until 2002.

Most expected Butterworth to retire from public service in 2002, but he was instead encouraged to run for the Florida Senate. Sadly, he was humiliated in the general election by a relatively unknown Republican, current state Senator Jeffrey Atwater (R-North Palm Beach). Butterworth lost by nearly 15,000 votes, a defeat of over 10 percentage points. Like the once great Muhammad Ali losing in 1980 to Larry Holmes, Butterworth lost because he didn't know when to walk away. He decided to fight that extra bout, and unfortunately his political reputation went down for the count.

Now, Butterworth is weighing whether he can resurrect his legacy. Republicans don't think that he can. When hearing of Butterworth's possible return to the political arena, former House Speaker John Thrasher said, "That's good news for the Republican nominee. When you try to dust off old folks, that is good for us. He couldn't even win his home Senate district the last time he ran."

Regardless of Butterworth's decision, the Democrats are in a quandary. After years of ignoring the problem, Florida Democrats lack a pool of young leaders who can run for office. Former party chairman Scott Maddox failed to recruit candidates for next year's statewide races, instead focusing entirely on his own run for governor. Now the Democrats are up against the wall.

If Democrats were smart, they would start thinking outside the box. A good candidate for attorney general might be former Miami-Dade mayor Alex Penelas. Penelas, who unsuccessfuly ran for the United States Senate, is an attractive, energetic progressive Democrat and a lawyer by trade. Another good candidate for attorney general would be current Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. Rundle is an extremely photogenic and articulate prosecutor with a strong record who has held office for over twelve years. Her law enforcement resume would help her in the general election.

Democrats would also benefit by the fact that both Penelas and Rundle are Cuban Americans. While they love to preach about diversity, Florida Democrats continue to be a party dominated by white males. A Penelas or Rundle candidacy would help Democrats back up their empty rhetoric on diversity by showing that minorities in the Democratic Party aren't simply relegated to the back of the party's bus.