GOP district changes raise ire
Posted: January 23, 2013
One day after Republicans pushed a surprise state Senate redistricting plan through the chamber, some prominent Democrats spoke out against the move.
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine issued a joint statement about the legislation, passed in the Senate on Monday, that redraws state Senate lines. The plan — sprung on the evenly spit Senate on a day when one Democrat was absent to attend President Obama’s inauguration — creates an additional district dominated by minorities that Democrats are likely control, but dilutes the party’s advantage in at least five other districts.
Under the state Constitution, redistricting takes place only once a decade, in years ending in one. But Republicans said the measure was needed to correct districts they say were unfairly drawn by Democrats in 2011.
“On a day when Americans celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and inaugurated Barack Obama as president, Virginia Senate Republicans took advantage of the absence of civil rights leader Sen. Henry Marsh to push through a hyper-partisan change to Virginia’s already gerrymandered legislative district map,” the senators’ statement reads.
“This is not the way we should be conducting the people’s business in Virginia. We are encouraged by Gov. McDonnell’s statements today expressing disapproval of the tactics that were used. We urge legislative leaders and other elected officials to do the right thing to correct this disappointing and disruptive partisan action.”
Under the proposal, the 27th district — which includes Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties — would gain Warren County while losing parts of Fauquier, Loudoun, Culpepper and Stafford counties, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Based on the 2009 gubernatorial race, the proposed changes to the district — which is represented by Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville — would make it slightly more Republican.
Vogel was one of the 20 Republican Senators to vote for the redistricting and defended the decision, explaining she has in the past supported the creation of a bipartisan redistricting commission that failed.
“Hence, we are left with the current process,” she wrote in an email.
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, the lone Democrat running this year to succeed Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), also weighed in.
“I join Gov. McDonnell in urging the legislature to end this divisive partisan effort and instead focus on making Virginia the best place for business with mainstream solutions on transportation and education,” McAuliffe said. “We simply cannot afford to have the legislature spend more time on divisive partisan fights, especially as we have so many important issues to address.”
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said Monday that the governor has not taken a position on the legislation, but indicated that he would rather not have the Senate consumed with redistricting this session. McDonnell is counting on bipartisan support for his transportation and education plans.
“I learned about it right before they went to the floor,” McDonnell told reporters Tuesday. “I certainly don’t think that’s a good way to do business.”
He added: “. . . This was not an initiative that I advocated, and I was surprised about the vote yesterday.”
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who would have been in a position to kill the bill by breaking a tie vote had it not come up on a day when a Democrat was absent, was more directly critical.
“Lt. Gov. Bolling has grave concerns about the adoption of a revised redistricting plan at this point in the process, and it is not something that he supported,” said Ibbie Hedrick, deputy chief of staff for Bolling.
The Republican is weighing an independent bid for governor.
State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, said Tuesday that he had not seen the details of the redistricting plan.
“I have to deal with defending it now,” Cuccinelli said. “I’m not worried about the constitutionality of it. I’m worried about how it plays out in the General Assembly.
Conor Gallagher of The Winchester Star contributed to this report.