New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is coming to bat for his homeboy, former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, this Friday. The pair will lay out their reasons for supporting amendments 5 and 6 on the November ballot at an 11 a.m. press conference at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami.
The pitch shouldn't be so hard since the measures would bring an end to gerrymandering in Florida. That means state legislators couldn't draw their own legislative and congressional districts to ensure their perpetual incumbencies, an idea that is definitely appealing whether you're a Tea Bagger or a bleeding heart liberal.
Diaz and Bloomberg became pals while kicking it as members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors when Manny was still in office. Diaz endorsed Bloomberg for his third term in 2009, as well as serving on one of the New York politician's charitable foundation. As chairman of FairDistrictsFlorida.org, Diaz rallied Bloomberg to the cause.
One of the main opponents to amendments 5 and 6 is Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who bailed on District 25 to run for District 21, long held by his brother Lincoln who announced his retirement earlier this year. After the 2000 Census, when he was a member of the Florida House of Representatives, Diaz-Balart chaired the redistricting committee that established the boundaries of District 25, which at the time was heavily Cuban and guaranteed he'd get elected.
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But the district also stretches far into the Everglades to include Naples and the Gulf Coast. Time magazine's Tim Padgett recently noted a local joke that "the district has more alligators than voters." Diaz-Balart enjoyed the advantage until 2008, when Democrat Joe Garcia came within six points of beating him. The congressman's near-loss reflected the district's increasing number of registered Democrats.
In announcing Bloomberg's Miami trip, FairDistrictsFlorida.org shared some interesting facts about the problems caused by gerrymandering. They include:
- Florida has the least competitive legislative elections in the nation, tied for 47th with California and Massachusetts.
- Only 10 out of 505 incumbent legislators have been voted out of office in the last decade.
- Florida ranks third among the 50 states for the fewest rules protecting against gerrymandering.