REDISTRICTING

GOP official doesn't know why his maps match public plan, final proposal

 

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

A Republican Party of Florida official testified Friday that maps he drew and gave to a GOP redistricting consultant were identical to a map submitted by a member of the public, significant parts of which were used by lawmakers in the final congressional map.

The testimony of Frank Terraferma, director of House campaigns for RPOF, came as lawyers for a coalition of voters are trying to show in circuit court that “legislators and staffers collaborated” with political operatives to conduct a "shadow" redistricting process. The groups. Led by the League of Women Voters, are challenging the state’s congressional map and accusing legislators of violating the 2010 constitutional amendment requiring them to draw districts that do not protect incumbents or members of a party. The trial is in its fifth day.

Terraferma testified that he drew maps for GOP consultant Rich Hefley using special map-making software obtained by the party, but he could not explain how an identical congressional map had been submitted by Alex Posada, a Florida State University student during the redistricting process.

Terraferma was shown his maps side by side with maps turned in by Posada. He said seven of the proposed congressional districts he drew on July 27 were identical to the Posada map, which House redistricting records show was submitted Nov. 1. But Terraferma denied knowing that his maps would eventually be submitted by the public.

“I agree without any doubt I drew those maps,’’ he said.

During the Legislature’s June 20 public hearing on redistricting, Posada, an economics student and a member of the FSU College Republicans, commended legislators for their open process, legislative records show.

“I think one of the primary goals of this whole process has to be transparency and I think ya'll have done a great job here today,’’ Posada told lawmakers. “You mentioned earlier how a lot of times we hear politicians talk, but rarely do we see them listening to us, so I really appreciate that.”

On Nov. 1, at 4:42 a.m., the Florida House posted on its website the submission of a complete congressional map by Posada. The plan has since become the most visited public submission on the site.

Senate President Don Gaetz testified under oath on Wednesday that he agreed that the legislature’s final congressional map was similar to Posada’s map.

“These maps were not pulled out of whole cloth,’’ he said, but “arose out of a process of inviting people to submit maps.”

Plaintiffs have yet to explain how they believe the map got from Terraferma to Posada but their questions have implied that Heffley played a role. They argue the he and other operations conducted a separate redistricting process "that was not only apart from the public process — but actually perverted the public process itself.”

Terraferma denied that he coordinated with Heffley to devise maps but said that he frequently talked about redistricting with him. Heffley, a close adviser to Gaetz, was paid $10,000 a month by the RPOF for redistricting work, records show.

Plaintiffs’ attorney David King showed Terraferma an email from Heffley in which he writes, “attached is a copy of the Central Florida Hispanic district…I say we just drop this baby into our map with the deviations cleaned up and go from there.”

King asked what Heffley meant: “Weren’t you the fella who was supposed to drop the baby into the map?”

Terraferma, who was combative and edgy during his testimony, told King to ask Heffley what he meant.

“He could mean me and I presume he meant me,’’ he said. “I’m not sure.”

Terraferma, who will continue his testimony on Tuesday followed by Heffley, said that he drew maps “for a variety of reasons” and because “it’s fun.”

But he acknowledged that, depending on how the congressional map was drawn, it could have a ripple effect on legislators running for Congress and unleashing the dominoes of open seats for House campaigns.

Terraferma, one of the longest-serving Republican political operatives in the state, has been described by Democrat political consultant Steve Schale as “the most under-recognized political mind in the state. ” Political blogger Peter Schorsch labeled him “one of the brightest minds in Florida politics” who approaches campaigns “with detail, specificity, and deep historical context.”

Also Friday, the voters coalition filed an emergency petition in the Florida Supreme Court asking the court to allow documents from political operative Pat Bainter to become part of the ongoing redistricting trial. The court asked for responses from the political operatives by mid-afternoon.

The First District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that 538 pages of maps, emails and memos are confidential “trade secrets” from Bainter and his company, Data Targeting, may not be entered as evidence in the trial.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas

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