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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Reubin Askew, July 8, 1974. Interview A-0045. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reapportionment changes Florida's political landscape

In Askew's opinion, reapportionment and its rejuvenation of the state's Republican Party are the most significant developments in Florida politics in the last twenty-five years. Both parties benefited because the GOP grew and the Democratic Party was forced to respond.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Reubin Askew, July 8, 1974. Interview A-0045. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WALTER DE VRIES:
. . . In Florida politics what are the changes that have occurred in the last twenty-five years. Reubin Askew: Well, you have already touched on what probably are the two biggest changes, and that is the advent of the two party system and reapportionment. Reapportionment, probably, was more traumatic than even the advent of the two party system. I came to the legislature sixteen years ago and we had, oh, as I can recall, I think that we had maybe about five Republicans in the house and no Republicans I think, in the senate. They might have had one. And then when I got elected to the senate, there was one Republican who is no Congressman Bill Young. And with the advent of reapportionment. . . reapportionment helped bring about the two party system, because most of the growth in the Republican party has taken place in the urban areas. So that after the court ordered reapportionment, there was a fairly substantial increase in the Republicans presence in the senate. There was one there, and then a second one was elected. Well, there were only two Republicans out of thirty-eight senators when we first went into real reapportionment, which was in 1965. And then we went from twelve to twenty, something like that. That was at the high point, I think that we have maybe fifteen or sixteen now. But reapportionment played a part in it. But prior to reapportionment, we had rather rigid lines within both houses that separated essentially the rural legislators from the urban legislators. And the whole issue was reapportionment. And of course, behind reapportionment was the tax distribution and particularly, the gas tax distribution and allocation. Race track allocation, so that there were some very, very sensitive issues that did not get resolved until such time as we reapportioned. And so, a lot of the tax questions were sort of the cohesiveness that held together the question of reapportionment. Besides, just held the question of not reapportioning. And of course, a lot of it was just personalities involved as well. We then, when we reapportioned, and I helped lead the fight for reapportionment in both houses. And coming from an area that stood to lose by it, it was somewhat of a misunderstood issue in my own constituency, but one that I felt very strongly about. Because I could see tremendous problems in the urban areas where the state government was simply not being responsive. And I think that it was fundamental just in representation. And it developed a tremendous amount of new leadership. Younger, more aggressive, well educated, well motivated men and women. And it gave, really, the legislature a real shot in the arm by developing a lot of this new leadership. Which essentially could not have been developed, by the way, prior to reapportionment. And then because reapportionment broke hope in this question of urban areas, then you were able to get more Republicans in and I think that it has had a healthy effect, over all, on state politics. Because I think, really, that a two party system has been the difference in this country. And I think that it distinguishes us from so many other countries in the world where your political party system is so proliferated that they have to put together a really weak coalition in order to have a working majority. Which creates indecisiveness and instability, which certainly isn't desirable in a world where you really need some type of strong leadership. And I think that the fact we have a two party system down in Florida has helped sharpen, I think, the Democratic party as well. Because the Democratic party for years simply wouldn't organize, because there was no need to organize. So that both of these, I think, have been the real major change in the last twenty-five years. In Florida. And of course, both of them have come about really, in the last ten years. And I think that they have been good for Florida and then when we came along with a more aggressive, able type of legislator, meaning no disrespect to those that preceeded us, and with the determination on the part of the legislature, of which I was a part of at that time, of really staffing properly the legislative branch. Because for two many years, the legislature had to depend upon lobbyists, either from the commercial sector or the executive branch, to know what the facts were. And with the advent of the reapportionment, we then started staffing the legislative branch much better. And so, we have now adopted a new constitution. We have reorganized the executive branch, we have restructured our entire judicial system and I believe that while we still have additional reorganization in the executive branch, I think that overall, Florida government has come a long way in the last ten years.