On redistricting, Webster whines, spends, heads to court

Scott Maxwell | Orlando Sentinel | 10/26/2015

A few weeks ago, I made a case for Daniel Webster as a potential Speaker of the U.S. House. (“Speaker Webster? The upsides to this long-shot idea”)

Unfortunately, today I have seen a compelling case made for Daniel Webster as a self-serving, lawsuit-happy gerrymanderer.

Very few politicians have looked like public servants in Florida’s redistricting boondoggle. But Webster is emerging as one of the most petulant and self-serving of them all which is really saying something.

First, he went to Tallahassee to implore legislators not to draw sensible districts that follow county lines. Why? Because sensible lines would make his re-election chances tougher. (“Webster: Proposed map aims to disfavor me as an incumbent.”)

Yes, I’m serious. Webster actually said he didn’t want district lines that make sense because he’d have a tough time keeping his political office … as if anyone other than his staff and family should care.

But last week, Webster upped the ante (and took a page from fellow gerrymandering fan, Corrine Brown), filing a legal motion, requesting the court to allow him to help draw the new lines. (“Webster asks Supreme Court for 'seat at the table' in redistricting.”)

It’s like he doesn’t understand that his own gerrymandered district is the very problem Fair Districts is trying to fix.

And yes, Webster’s district IS gerrymandered. Big time.

Theoretically, Webster represents Orange County.

But in recent years, Orange County become more Democratic. So, to unbalance the scales, Webster’s GOP cronies in the Legislature stretched his “Orlando” like it was Silly Putty.

Sure, it starts in Orlando. But then it meanders down south to Winter Haven in Polk County, up north through the Green Swamp in Lake County, all the way up to Umatilla and then back through Mount Dora, Astutula and Gotha before heading back to Orlando.

As I wrote earlier, his district now “covers three counties and makes zero sense. At one point, the district is so narrow — being careful to avoid black people and Democrats — that the only real inhabitant is the Florida Mall.”

That’s your new “Orlando” district.

This is also precisely the kind of geographic nonsense that Floridians wanted to stop when they overwhelmingly passed Fair Districts. The Constitutional amendment requires legislators to draw districts that follow city and county lines and keep communities together.

But Webster doesn’t want “fair” — because he would have a tough time winning.

As the Fair Districts plaintiffs summed up in their response to Webster's motion: "Congressman Webster ... does not have a constitutional right to a gerrymandered district."

It’s kind of remarkable Webster even gave voice to such self-serving sentiment – much less put it in a legal motion.

And speaking of that legal motion, I wanted to know who was paying for Webster’s legal costs.

But so far, Webster's office isn't saying.

His spokeswoman provided no answers, suggesting the issue was a campaign matter – though Webster previously said was setting up a legal fund for redistricting through the U.S. House Ethics Committee. (“U.S. Rep. Dan Webster creates legal defense fund for redistricting battle”)

If the campaign responds with specifics, I'll let you know. (And if his offices don't provide them, you can be sure we'll let you know that, too.)

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