Amidst rumors that the Florida Republican establishment deliberately handed Rep. Allen West a bluer -- ie, tougher -- Congressional district ahead of the 2012 election cycle, it appears that West has struck a backroom deal of his own. I just spoke with The Shark Tank's Javier Manjarres, who broke the story that incumbent Rep. Tom Rooney has decided to run in one of Florida's newly-formed districts, allowing West to run for his vacated seat. The Washington Post has more details:
Tea party firebrand Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) announced Tuesday that he will switch districts and run for reelection in Florida’s new 18th district. West’s 22nd district, which was already Democratic-leaning, got even tougher under a new GOP redistricting plan released last week. The new district would have gone about 57 percent for President Obama in the 2008 presidential race. But Rep. Tom Rooney’s (R-Fla.) decision earlier Tuesday to run in the open and Republican-leaning 17th district rather than the swing 18th freed West up to make the switch to the neighboring district, which is just north of his current district, which spans from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale.
Manjarres tells me he thinks this agreement is a win/win for both participants. Rooney gets to run in the R-leaning 17th district, while West carries his redoubtable war chest into relative friendly crimson territory. As a point of reference, Romney defeated his Democrat opponent in the district (now the 18th) by a margin of 67-33 in 2010. In another Florida politics shake-up, Manjarres tells me he's also hearing that Adam Hasner will likely abandon his US Senate bid and run for West's old House seat in the 22nd district. That decision would clear the field for either former placeholder Sen. George LeMieux or Rep. Connie Mack -- both of whom hope to unseat incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson in the fall.
Even though West now looks like he's relatively safe, some conservatives may still be irked by the notion that the party may have cut a deal with Democrats to oust him. Did they? RealClearPolitics' resident election data savant took a peek at Florida's redistricting laws and concluded that political foul play was highly unlikely in this case (via HotAir):
So making West’s district redder is pretty difficult. In the southern half of the district, almost all of the reddish precincts are already included. It could conceivably go northward, but that would weaken the 16th district and potentially set up a member vs. member matchup with Tom Rooney (who is also supposedly a target of the legislature). But even this is next to impossible, because of a change in Florida redistricting law approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2010. The Fair Districts Initiative amended the state’s constitution as follows:
“Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.” The Florida Legislature may well be hostile toward West. But given the map the Senate drew, I think it’s done about as much as it could permissibly do to save his career.
Color me relieved. If Trende had found clues in the other direction, this feud could have opened up a malignant rift between the state party and grassroots activists.