Reporting Tim Kephart
PLANTATION, Fla. (CBSMiami.com) – Freshman U.S. Congressman Allen West and Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s war of words gained headlines Wednesday; but it turns out, West has a lot riding on Wasserman-Schultz’s performance in Congress.
Congressman West represents the 22nd Congressional District in Florida. The gerrymandered district includes cities like Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, and Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.
But, Congressman West doesn’t live in the district that he serves. Congressman West actually lives in the 20th Congressional District which is represented by Wasserman-Schultz, according to campaign records and the Broward County Property Appraiser’s records.
So, as West battles Wasserman-Schultz over their disagreements on policy; he’s also dependent on her bringing in big money to the district they live in.
“He claims he represents the people; if you don’t live there how do you represent me,” asked veteran Dennis Pack.
“Sixty-five percent of his constituents are seniors and he’s voting to cut Medicare,” constituent Wanda Francis.
Another voter said he doesn’t understand the issues important to coastal residents because he lives in a suburb where problems are completely different.
“He voted for offshore drilling; we do not want rigs out there,” said voter Linda Eidinger.
And, it’s not illegal to not live in the district you represent, according to the United States Supreme Court. The high court said that only the Constitution can set the requirements for the House of Representatives and Senate.
When dealing with the House of Representatives, the Constitution says in Article 1, Section 2:
“No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty-five years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”
So while the state of Florida can force state representatives, senators, etc to live in the district they represent; the federal government can’t do that without amending the Constitution. In other words, a representative of a district in South Florida could actually live in Pensacola.
Congressman West isn’t the first to live outside the district he serves. Former Florida Representative Tim Mahoney had his legal residence in another district. Robert Wexler listed his mother-in-law’s home in Boca Raton in order to serve as a Florida representative, despite having his primary residence in Maryland.
Even former vice-president Dick Cheney changed his voter registration to Wyoming, where he owned a home, from Texas. Cheney did it because the President and Vice-President can’t inhabit the same state. Cheney had also represented Wyoming in Congress.
Congressman West’s office issued a statement to CBS4 saying: “The State of Florida is redrawing the District lines and no one knows what the boundaries of any congressional district will look like. The Congressman is waiting until the lines are drawn before he relocates into his own district.”
But until then, despite their vast political differences, Congressman West will continue to be represented by Congresswoman, and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.