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Hallandale Rep Clashes With Blue Dog in Black Caucus

Joe Gibbons better watch out. Not only is he no longer chairman of the Florida Legislature's black caucus. But the new chairman is Gary Siplin, the state senator from Orlando famous for trying to put a crucified Christ on the Florida license plate. And Siplin doesn't share Gibbons' highfalutin notions about black politicians winning in majority white districts, which Gibbons did in Hallandale Beach. Rather, Siplin appears resolved to reverse the black caucus' position on Fair Districts Florida, the ballot initiative that would make it harder to gerrymander in 2010.

Like all formidable foes, Siplin speaks in the third person, telling the Orlando Sentinel,

"This is a new administration, and Sen. Siplin is in charge," he said. "We're going to take another look at the amendment now."

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The ballot initiative makes a difficult test between two core identities of the caucus members. Their African-American identities -- as well as their future electoral prospects -- may be best-served by the initiative's defeat, since a Republican legislature would likely gerrymander them into black majority districts where it would be easier for those caucus members to be reelected. But since that same effort will carve up the state into districts favoring Republican electoral victories, it is an affront to caucus members' Democrat identity.

For more on how the initiative has divided black legislators, check out the story the Miami Herald did last month.

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Thomas Francis