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Crist Breaks With Florida GOP on Florida Redistricting Amendments

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has now distanced himself even further from state Republicans, this time by wading into a contentious battle over dueling redistricting amendments.

During a meeting with the Miami Herald’s editorial board this week, Crist endorsed a pair of ballot initiatives sponsored by the citizens group Fair Districts Florida — Amendments 5 and 6 — that seek to reform how lawmakers redraw legislative and congressional districts. At the same time, he trashed the majority-Republican legislature’s decision to put forward a third redistricting measure — Amendment 7 — that critics charge will effectively neuter Amendments 5 and 6. (See here for an explanation of what these amendments would do.)

Crist claimed the lawmakers’ amendment was effectively a way for state Republicans to preserve their numbers in the legislature and the state’s congressional delegation. He referred to the bill as a “silver bullet” that he would have vetoed if the state constitution gave him that power.

“Some people have gotten so rigid about their adherence to the party before doing what’s right for the people, it’s hurting our country,” he told the Herald.

Crist had previously reserved judgment on the Fair Districts amendments back in February 2009, claiming he needed to learn more about what they would do. However, he also said he felt redistricting reform pushes always came from the minority party.

“It always seems like the party that’s not in power doesn’t like the way the districts are drawn,” he told the St. Petersburg Times.

His position is not a total reversal, as the Herald points out — he had supported a constitutional amendment in 1993 that would have created an independent commission that would follow guidelines similar to what is included in the Fair Districts amendments. That amendment passed in the state Senate but then died in the then-majority-Democratic House.

This is just the latest in a series of dramas between Crist and the GOP since his April 29 announcement that he would forgo his run for the party’s Senate nomination in favor of an independent run for the seat. His battles with the state party leadership have been particularly nasty and public, culminating in the Republican Party of Florida’s widely reported eBay auction of its portrait of Crist for $7,700.

Crist’s comments on the redistricting amendments went public Friday, the same day the state chapters of the NAACP and League of Women Voters, as well as the Hispanic advocacy group Democracia Ahora, filed a lawsuit in Tallahassee to get Amendment 7 removed from the ballot. The plaintiffs claimed the amendment was “flying under false colors” by claiming to clarify Amendments 5 and 6 while allegedly being an attempt to do just what Crist claimed: preserve Republican majorities.

The state party’s press office had not returned requests for comment at the time of this article’s posting.

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