Virginia's Redistricting News
(April 11, 2001 - June 29, 2001) 

 

 Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Redistricting plan aids GOP: Alternative proposals to be heard in hearings tonight and tomorrow." June 29, 2001
 The Washington Times : "Plans for Ollie North district set back." June 27, 2001
 The Richmond Times Dispatch: "Redistrict plan held racially divisive: General Assembly panel holds public hearings ." June 27, 2001  
 
 The Washington Times : "Virginia GOP in search of Latino candidate." June 26, 2001 

 The Washington Post: "Democrats Challenge Legislative Redistricting Republican Va. Map Weakens Black Vote, Filing Says."
May 18, 2001
 The Bulletin's Frontrunner: "VA4: Lucas Win Could Scramble GOP Redistricting Plans." May 11, 2001
 The Washington Post: "Governor Puts Seal on Virginia's New Political Map." April 24, 2001
 Richmond Post-Dispatch: "No High Ground." April 21, 2001
 The Washington Post: "GOP Clears Va. Redistricting Plan." April 19, 2001
 Richmond Post-Dispatch: "Getting acquainted with new districts." April 15, 2001
 The Washington Post: "GOP Designs Mostly Latino N.Va. District." April 11, 2001


More recent redistricting news from Virginia

Virginia redistricting news from February 15, 2001 - April 10, 2001

 


Richmond Times-Dispatch
Redistricting plan aids GOP:Alternative proposals to be heard in hearings tonight and tomorrow


The 7th Congressional District, represented by Rep. Eric I. Cantor of Henrico, a Republican, would stretch west from New Kent County across the Blue Ridge Mountains into Page County.

The 3rd District, represented by Rep. Robert C. Scott of Newport News, a Democrat, would stretch from Richmond eastward through Newport News to Chesapeake and Norfolk.

These are among the changes to Virginia's current congressional map proposed in a redistricting plan that was endorsed by the seven-member Republican delegation in Congress.

The net effect, Republicans acknowledge, would be to enhance the re-election chances of their incumbents, particularly in three districts now considered competitive.

The Virginia congressional delegation consists of seven Republicans, three Democrats and a Republican-leaning independent. For the first time, Republicans are in control of the redistricting process.

In the 4th District, which Republican Rep. J. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake won by just 4 percentage points in a special election last week, President Bush carried the district with just 49 percent of the vote last year. Under the proposed plan, he would have won 56 percent of the vote.

The proposed plan moves most of the primarily Democratic voters in Portsmouth from the 4th District into the neighboring 3rd District. The 4th District also picks up 80,000 new voters in Republican-leaning Chesterfield and extends through Powhatan and Fluvanna counties into Louisa County.

By moving the Eastern Shore from the lst District into the 2nd District, and adding 62,000 voters from Chesapeake, the GOP voting tendency of the 2nd District would move from 53 percent to 56 percent. Rep. Ed Schrock of Virginia Beach won that district with just 52 percent of the vote last year.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Falls Church Republican, has had little difficulty in winning election in the 11th District, but it voted for Democrats Al Gore and Sen. Charles S. Robb last year.

In the proposed bill, sponsored by Del. Jeannemarie Devolites, R-Fairfax, a political confidant of Davis, the 11th District would have given a 52 percent majority to Bush, compared with a 47 percent vote for Bush in the current district.

Devolites said she drew up the plan after consulting with the Republican incumbents. The House of Delegates and state Senate leadership also was involved, she said.

"No one got 100 percent of what they wanted," she said. "We had to do a lot of juggling."

Devolites added, "This was just the first bite of the apple. It is a work in progress and I'm sure there is room for improvement."

Already, Northern Virginia Republicans are grumbling that the new 11th District, while it helps Davis, also helps Democratic Rep. James P. Moran in the neighboring 8th District. Many see Moran as vulnerable because of his ethical and anger problems.

But the new plan would increase the Democratic tendency of the 8th District from 56 percent to 58 percent.

Devolites acknowledged that Davis and Moran cooperated on the new boundaries, which move Democratic-leaning Reston from the 11th into the 8th District.

"It was a mutual support pact," said Del. Marian Van Landingham, D-Alexandria, co-chair of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections.

The 10th District was reduced in size so it would be centered more in the Washington suburbs and upper Shenandoah Valley.

The 5th District, represented by the lone independent, Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., would be expanded northward through Albemarle County into Madison, Greene and Orange counties.

Rep. Rick Boucher, D-9th, complained that the proposed plan removes Blacksburg and Virginia Tech from the 9th District and puts them in the adjoining 6th District. He said the proposed new plan would not harm him politically, but he fears it would hurt Virginia Tech.

Several people on his staff have "deep expertise" in securing federal grants for the Blacksburg university, he said.

While most Democrats feel Boucher could easily win re-election in the 9th District, the proposed plan would make it easier for a Republican to win if Boucher decided to retire.

Scott said he realized that changes would have to be made to the 3rd District because it needed to pick up 75,000 more people. He said he can live with those changes and is pleased that the proposed Devolites bill would maintain Hampton Roads' substantial representation in Congress. Four representatives who live in the Hampton Roads area now serve in congress.

Democrats, however, said the new 3rd District may make the congressional redistricting plan vulnerable to a lawsuit because it packs too many blacks into the district.

"They (Republicans) just don't seem to understand the packing issue," Van Landingham said.

The black majority in the district would increase from 58 percent to 60 percent under the plan. Van Landingham said recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have indicated this may be too high.

State Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Hanover, who sits on the state Senate elections committee, said he had hoped the proposed plan would bring the Richmond area together again. The area was split among three congressional districts 10 years ago. The Devolites plan would continue this split.

Bolling, who represents New Kent County in the Virginia Senate, said he also is concerned that the proposal divides New Kent into three congressional districts.

"We've got to take a close look at this plan and others and see if we can do better," he said.

State Sen. John C. Watkins, R-Chesterfield, has submitted a plan that puts all of Chesterfield in the 7th District, instead of separating it between the 4th and 7th. State Sen. Yvonne B. Miller, D-Norfolk, also has submitted a plan friendlier to Democrats.

Both of those plans appear to have split fewer localities than the Devolites plan.

Because the General Assembly generally defers to the congressional delegation, the Devolites bill is considered the major vehicle before the Assembly when it reconvenes here July 9 to adopt the new boundaries.

The plan splits Chesapeake three ways. Orange, Goochland, Spotsylvania, Fauquier, Isle of Wight, Brunswick and Bedford counties are split in two. Fairfax County, the largest jurisdiction in the state, is divided among three districts.

The three plans will be the subject of public hearings tonight and tomorrow. A hearing will be held at the General Assembly Building at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Redistrict plan held racially divisive: General Assembly panel holds public hearings
By Tyler Whitley
July 1, 2001

A congressional redistricting plan sanctioned by Virginia's seven Republican congressmen is racially divisive, a General Assembly panel was told yesterday.

Charles Winder, a Hampton attorney and NAACP official, said the plan divided Portsmouth along racial lines and would increase racial tensions in that city.

Winder was one of a handful of people who showed up at a public hearing at the General Assembly Building to comment on four congressional redistricting plans that have been introduced.

A joint subcommittee of the House and Senate elections committees conducted the hearing, one of four held around the state yesterday and Friday.

Winder said the plan appears to pack blacks into the 3rd District, represented by Democratic Rep. Robert C. Scott, while lowering the black population in the 4th District.

"We [blacks] can compete at 50 percent, we don't need 57 percent," Winder said. Scott is black.

Del. Johnny S. Joannou, D-Portsmouth, said the plan might be unconstitutional. He noted that the congressional district plan drawn up 10 years ago was thrown out by a court ruling that declared it racially gerrymandered.

The plan introduced by Del. Jeannemarie A. Devolites, R-Fairfax, drew the most fire. She drew up the plan with the cooperation of the seven GOP incumbents and a Republican-leaning independent.

Del. John S. Reid, R-Henrico, said a number of people attending a public hearing in Williamsburg Friday night objected to the plan's proposal to split Chesapeake among the 4th, 3rd and 2nd congressional districts.

Chesapeake currently is in the 4th District, which elected a new congressman, Republican J. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake, in a special election June 19.

While the plan is designed to help Forbes and redistrict 2nd District Rep. Ed Schrock, a Republican from Virginia Beach, win re-election next year by putting more white, Republican-leaning voters in those two districts, Reid said Chesapeake residents did not want to be split.

Del. Lacey E. Putney, I-Bedford, co-chair of the House Elections Committee, said no one attending a public hearing in Roanoke liked the Devolites plan.

Botetourt County residents wanted to be kept in the 6th District, and Blacksburg area residents wanted to be kept in the 9th district, he said. The proposed plan would move Botetourt from the 6th to the 9th and the Blacksburg area, including Virginia Tech, from the 9th to the 6th.

The Devolites plan is considered the main vehicle that the General Assembly will consider when it convenes July 9 to draw new lines for the state's 11 congressional districts. Redistricting is done every 10 years following the U.S. Census.

State Sen. Stephen H. Martin, R-Chesterfield, cautioned that none of the four bills should be considered pre-eminent.

"I have a feeling we will make changes" to any bill, Martin said.

Chesterfield Supervisor Kelly E. Miller said the county would prefer a plan authored by state Sen. John C. Watkins, R-Chesterfield, which puts all of Chesterfield into the 7th District. The county is now split between the 7th and 4th districts.

Miller and Chesterfield Registrar Lawrence Haake also objected because the proposed Devolites plan would split five precincts. That would cause confusion and added costs on election day, they said.

The plan was drawn up before Chesterfield changed its magisterial district and precinct lines, so the problem can be corrected, Martin said.

Ray Wooten, a member of the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors, urged the committee to keep Cumberland in the 5th District with its rural neighbors. The Devolites bill would put Cumberland in the 4th District, as would the Watkins plan.

In addition to the Devolites and Watkins plans, bills have been introduced by state Sen. Yvonne B. Miller, D-Norfolk, and Del. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, who is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Because the Deeds and Miller bills would enhance the election chances of Democrats, they are considered unlikely to get far. With majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate, Republicans are in charge of the redistricting process.

Virginia currently has seven Republican members of the House, one independent and three Democrats.



The Washington T
imes
Plans for Ollie North district set back

By Ralph Z. Hallow and Ellen Sorokin
June 27, 2001

Virginia Republicans who hoped to carve out a congressional district for Oliver L. North suffered a setback yesterday with redistricting bills that failed to extend a congressional district to include his county.

Two Republican redistricting bills were filed with the Virginia Assembly yesterday but neither extended the 9th Congressional District to include Mr. North's home in Clarke County, at the northeast end of the state, so he could run against Rep. Rick Boucher, a nine-term Democrat. 

"This redistricting is not about Ollie North, but about creating good districts for Republican incumbents to hold," said Jeannemarie A. Devolites, who filed one of the bills and who is the point person for the congressional redistricting bill in the House of Delegates.

Meanwhile yesterday, Virginia Democrats filed a lawsuit against the state's top Republicans in an effort to block the GOP's legislative-redistricting plan for the House of Delegates and state Senate.

In papers filed yesterday in Circuit Court in Salem, Va., four Democratic state senators and 16 delegates claim Gov. James S. Gilmore III and the General Assembly's Republican majority took part in racial, sex and partisan gerrymandering when they redrew the district lines in April.

The Democrats claim the Republican plan intentionally lumps high-profile Democratic leaders into key districts -- a move they say would hurt re-election chances of several incumbent legislators and cut the number of Democrats in both chambers.

"The Republican legislative-redistricting plan is gerrymandering at its worst," said Delegate R. Creigh Deeds, Bath Democrat and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

The Democrats hope to prevent it from taking effect before November, when all 100 House seats are up for election.

Republicans who were named as defendants in the lawsuit said yesterday they were not too worried about the lawsuit.

"These efforts to delay the process aren't going to work," said Lila White, the governor's spokeswoman. She said Mr. Gilmore is confident that the plans will prevail.

House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., an Amherst Republican and defendant in the case, agreed. "The Justice Department approved it, so that would mean they found it to be all right. Everything we did was on the advice of counsel."

The Justice Department -- which must review the plans to determine if they have an adverse effect on minorities under the federal Voting Rights Act -- approved the House plan two weeks ago, two months after the House and Senate passed both proposed plans. It is still reviewing the Senate plan.

The Senate plan pairs two Democratic incumbents in one district and pits another against a GOP senator in a strongly Republican district.

In court papers, the Democratic leadership also argues the plans pack minorities into districts and dilute their voting strength, rendering the proposals illegal according to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"It's clear that the lines were drawn to include or exclude groups of people on the basis of their skin color," said Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, Arlington Democrat. "That is illegal in our view and we cannot tolerate that in Virginia. These plans put us at a disadvantage and we want them redesigned."
Democrats say the plans discriminate against female legislators, including Mrs. Whipple and Leslie Byrne, Fairfax Democrat, both of whom would be put in Senate District 31 under the proposed Senate plan by forcing them to run against each other.

"Republicans have stepped over the line," said House Minority Leader C. Richard Cranwell of Roanoke, one of the Democratic leaders put in the same district with another Democratic incumbent. "We will do everything possible to prevent this breach of public trust."

None of the Republicans named in the lawsuit -- including Mr. Gilmore, Mr. Wilkins, Lt. Gov. John H. Hager and acting Attorney General Randy Beales -- has been served with court papers, and no court date has been set.

The surprising setback for Mr. North yesterday came after he had appeared to move closer to becoming the Republican candidate for the 9th District next year. On Sunday, Republican officials there voted 23-3 to recommend that it be redrawn to include Clarke County.

"Absolutely, North is a star, but it's been eight years since he last ran for office," Mrs. Devolites said. "Ollie would make an outstanding candidate, he's a hard worker and would give Boucher a run. But we have other candidates who have lived and worked in Southwestern Virginia who also could make a strong run."

Asked how her close friend, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, feels about her bill excluding Mr. North from a redrawn 9th Congressional District, she said, "As chairman, he has an obligation to elect Republicans."

Mr. Davis told The Washington Times on June 12 that he "would encourage Ollie and would support him if he chose to run in the 9th District," but that "it is up to the Virginia state legislature to determine the new boundaries of the congressional districts."

Now a radio talk-show host, Mr. North is the retired Marine Corps colonel who became a hero to many Americans during the Iran-Contra congressional hearings in the late 1980s.

Supporters who thought he would best be able to defeat Mr. Boucher were gathering support to extend the 9th District.

Furthermore, some North supporters among Republican lawmakers said privately that the move yesterday was masterminded by Republicans in the liberal, anti-North faction, led by Sen. John W. Warner.

That faction publicly opposed Mr. North in 1994 and worked hard to make sure he lost his campaign to unseat Sen. Charles S. Robb, the Democratic incumbent, because he was too conservative and "divisive."

Among those who see a coalescing of the same liberal cabal against Mr. North is Delegate Richard H. Black, a Republican and North supporter.

"But there are people in our party who are nervous about charismatic conservative Republicans taking office," said Mr. Black. "They are able to ignite the base of the party and take the party in the direction the establishment doesn't want to go."

"The party is forever afflicted by the notion that if we act like Democrats, conservatives will still vote for us," Mr. Black said. "It doesn't work."

Some who want Mr. North to run said during the vote that he would help President Bush implement his supply-side energy strategy -- and thereby help Virginia's economy -- by working with the administration to free up for development the gas, oil and coal reserves in the area of the state he would represent.

"Boucher has done nothing to develop the coal we have," said Richard Wolfe, a Washington County Republican activist who supports Mr. North.


The Washington T
imes 
Virginia GOP in search of Latino candidate
By Ellen Sorokin
June 26, 2001

The Republican Party, intent on keeping control of the Virginia House of Delegates, has come up with three potential Hispanic candidates to run against an incumbent Democrat in the redrawn 49th District, where minorities are a majority of the population. The new district includes three of the most ethnically diverse communities in Northern Virginia -- Del Ray in Alexandria, Arlandria in Arlington County and Culmore in Fairfax County. The district's population is 42 percent Hispanic, 27 percent white, 20 percent black and 11 percent Asian.
     
Local and national party officials yesterday said they believe a Latino delegate would better look out for the interests of the residents who live in what is one of the poorest areas in Virginia.
     
State Delegate L. Karen Darner, Arlington Democrat, has represented the former 49th District for the last 10 years. Miss Darner was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
     
"It's important to have someone who can fully represent the district, who understands the needs of their community," said Michael Lane, chairman of the Arlington County Republican Party. "It's a district that deserves to have someone who has the same background."
     
The new 49th District is the only one of the state's 100 house districts that does not have a white or black majority.
     
It also is the first to have a Hispanic plurality, state party officials said.
     
If elected, the candidate would be the General Assembly's first Hispanic delegate. Republicans currently have 52 House seats to the Democrats' 47. There is one independent. All 100 seats are up for election in November.      

The three possible candidates for the 49th District seat are Edgar Gonzalez of Woodbridge, William Garcia of Leesburg and John Nande of Alexandria.      

None of the three has ever run for public office.    

All three live outside the district, but each has said he will move into the area.     

Since redistricting was completed, a large number of Latinos expressed interest in running for the seat, local GOP officials said. The three men were chosen from 21 finalists interviewed as possible candidates, said Federico Morales, chairman of the Virginia chapter of the National Republican Hispanic Assembly.      

The most difficult hurdle the party must overcome is getting the Hispanic community to vote in November, Mr. Morales said. Many Hispanics in the district are not registered to vote because they are not American citizens.      

Miss Darner has faced strong GOP opposition in the past and won easily, but Republican Party officials remain hopeful and optimistic about the party's chances of capturing the seat.    

"If we can get all the Republicans to turn out and get our fair share of the Latino vote, we can win," Mr. Lane said.     

State Democratic Party officials yesterday said they believe Miss Darner has served her constituents well since she was first elected in 1991. One example is a pilot program she established to provide foreign language interpreters at civil court proceedings, party officials said.     

"I'm confident that if any voter would look at Delegate Darner's record they would see she is an advocate of any issue that is of importance to the community she serves," said Mary Broz, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Virginia.     

The Latino community has had enough with the current leadership and wants one of its own to tackle the issues that are important to them, including improving education and public transportation, and ending the car taxes, Mr. Morales said.     

But it is not yet clear, however, whether the Latino community would vote Republican, even if the candidate is a fellow Hispanic. Most Hispanics across the country tend to identify with the Democratic Party.   

But some state Republican Party officials said President Bush's efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community are helping.     

"The Republican Party has made a real effort on outreach and the Republican message has traditionally appealed to many in the Hispanic community," said Ed Matricardi, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.


The Washington Post
Democrats Challenge Legislative Redistricting Republican Va. Map Weakens Black Vote, Filing Says
Craig Timberg

May 18, 2001

Virginia Democrats urged the U.S. Justice Department today to reject the state's redrawn legislative districts, arguing that the Republicans who control the General Assembly created a plan that dilutes the voting power of African Americans.The 45-page filing is part of an attempt by the out-of-power Democrats to block a redistricting plan that threatens to weaken the party across the state by forcing Democratic incumbents to retire and making traditional party strongholds harder to win.

Party lawyers contend that Virginia's growing population of African Americans will not be adequately represented by the plan's 12 majority-black House districts. That's the same number of majority-black districts in the plan drawn up in 1991 by Democrats, but they argue that case law has changed since then in ways that open the door to spreading minority political power more broadly among districts. There are 100 House districts; nearly 20 percent of Virginians are African American.

"When you ghetto-ize African Americans into these districts, we lose the opportunity to impact other districts, and thereby lose impact and effectiveness in the electoral process," said Del. William P. Robinson Jr. (D-Norfolk), the senior member of the legislative black caucus.Democrats also charged in their filing that Republicans sharply limited public input, especially by minority groups, when they crafted their plan.

The Justice Department must review any changes to Virginia's election laws under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which sought to break decades of racial discrimination at the polls.

The process has important political consequences because African Americans are the most reliable supporters of the Democratic Party. Many party officials argue that redistricting plans a decade ago improved black representation in Congress and state legislatures but also weakened Democrats by packing black voters into districts where they formed majorities, diluting their numbers elsewhere.

Today's filing was the nation's first appeal of a redistricting plan after the once-a-decade census taken last year. Because Virginia is one of the few states to hold its elections in odd years, Republicans here are eager to win quick approval from the Justice Department.A lengthy delay could force Virginia to use the old political districts that favor Democrats in November, when all 100 House seats are up for election. The new plan drew 11 incumbent Democrats into only five of the new districts.

Republicans have expressed confidence that their plan will survive review by the Justice Department and an expected court challenge by Democrats.They argue that they allowed extensive public input. And they say that the House districts with solid black majorities ensure continued election of black officials. A plan presented by Democrats had smaller black majorities in several districts, but higher percentages of black voters in many others.

"The Democratic plan was very unfriendly to African Americans in how it was set up," said Del. John H. "Jack" Rust Jr. (R-Fairfax). "We're in very good shape."The Republican plan also created a district in Northern Virginia that has a majority of neither white nor black voters. The 49th House District includes southern Arlington, a northern precinct of Alexandria and the Baileys Crossroads area of Fairfax County. It is 42 percent Latino, 20 percent black and 10 percent Asian American.

The Democrats' filing takes particular exception to that district, arguing that it unfairly dilutes African American voting strength in Alexandria.

 

The Bulletin's Frontrunner
VA4: Lucas Win Could Scramble GOP Redistricting Plans
May 11, 2001

The Virginian Pilot (5/11, Nuckols) reports Republican plans "to retool the fourth congressional district to make it more friendly to GOP candidates could be thwarted if Democrat L. Louise Lucas wins next month's special election." The Republican-controlled General Assembly "will redraw congressional districts in July using the new 2000 census data," and because Lucas "is black, any changes to a district she represents would likely receive close scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice."

Blacks "represent 38 percent of the fourth congressional district's voting age population, according to 2000 U.S. Census figures," the "second largest concentration of black voters among Virginia's 11 congressional districts." The concentration of black voters "help to make it one of the most competitive in the state," and Al Gore and former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb "narrowly carried the district in last year's elections." Republicans have "considered redrawing the district to include more of Chesterfield County, a GOP stronghold." But " doing so would dilute the district's black population." While that "might have passed muster if it were designed to dislodge Sisisky, a white Democrat," most Republicans "admit a black incumbent would raise new legal questions."

The Washington Post
Governor Puts Seal on Virginia's New Political Map

R.H. Melton
April 24, 2001

Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) has signed into law Virginia's first legislative redistricting plan devised by Republicans, a new political map that could shape General Assembly politics for years to come, his office announced today. Gilmore made no changes in two bills realigning districts for the 100-member House of Delegates and 40 state Senate seats on Saturday, before leaving the country on a two-week trade mission to Europe. In announcing the signing today, Gilmore spokesman Reed H. Boatright said the governor would have no formal comment on the redistricting plan, which reflects the 2000 Census and faces a probable legal challenge by Democrats and other critics of the Republican-controlled reapportionment.

Gilmore regards the plan as "well crafted and in strict accordance with both Virginia law and federal guidelines," Boatright said. Republicans had long sought to topple the Democrats, who had run the General Assembly since the Civil War, and accomplished that goal with Gilmore's leadership and political money in 1999, at the halfway point of his four-year term as governor.

Although the GOP controls all five statewide offices -- two U.S. Senate seats, the governorship and the offices of lieutenant governor and attorney general -- the once-a-decade redistricting is widely viewed as the biggest potential boost to Republican efforts to consolidate power. The House-Senate plan that Gilmore signed creates several new seats in fast-growing Northern Virginia and pairs a handful of Democratic incumbents in single districts, including state Sens. Leslie L. Byrne (Fairfax) and Mary Margaret Whipple (Arlington).

Gilmore fueled speculation last week that he might alter the legislature's handiwork when he summoned Byrne and Whipple to his Capitol office to discuss their pairing and some other districts that had drawn partisan complaints. But Gilmore made no promises that he would intercede on their behalf, Whipple and Byrne said. Mary Broz, a state Democratic Party spokeswoman, said Gilmore's "rapid rubber-stamp of the GOP plans proves he only does his job when it suits his personal political agenda. "

At least Republicans finally can point to one example where they worked together this year," Broz added. "Too bad the result puts GOP interests ahead of the rights of Virginians." The GOP redistricting maps now head to the Justice Department for preliminary review in advance of Virginia's statewide elections Nov. 6. Candidates for the House of Delegates will be running this fall in the new districts; state Senate elections are in 2003.

Richmond Post-Dispatch
No High Ground
April 21, 2001

If Virginia Democrats have no reason to complain about the 2001 redistricting plan, then Virginia Republicans have no reason to brag about the scheme. This year Republicans merely applied standards Democrats applied a decade ago. No Democrat who supported the 1991 map can caterwaul about the 2001 map without inspiring absolute derision. The pol who can dish it out but who can't take it is a lowly specimen.

Which means Republicans can be as lowly as Democrats. Republicans who screamed about the 1991 gerrymander can expect scant applause for producing a gerrymander of their very own. Both parties treat voters as mere pawns - bodies to be moved from district to district to serve the interests of pols. Reformers beware: The average voter probably doesn't care, either. To a Republican voter "community of interest" probably defines a district that elects Republicans, while to a Democrat "community of interest" defines a district that elects Democrats.

The process is as messy as democracy itself. Some states try to remove politics from the redistricting equation. Colorado, for instance, relies on a commission to draw the lines. Voters who have moved into or out of Colorado may or may not be able to tell the difference. Regarding redistricting, neither party occupies the high ground. Perhaps there is no high ground to occupy.  

The Washington Post
GOP Clears Va. Redistricting Plan;
House, Senate Agree on Legislative Boundaries, but Still at Odds Over Budget
R.H. Melton
April 19, 2001

The General Assembly's Republican majority came together long enough today to pass a historic redistricting plan and send it to a receptive Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R), then went home seething about a budget impasse that marred what could have been a Virginia GOP celebration. Republicans in the House of Delegates and state Senate redrew the boundaries of 140 legislative seats to reflect population shifts in the 2000 Census and once again turned aside Democratic complaints that the reapportionment was unfair to them and their traditional constituents, notably African Americans.

But the unity that the assembly's new GOP leaders showed in pushing their plan through on largely party-line votes broke down several times during the day, as House members and senators quarreled openly about the budget deadlock that has trapped politically popular salary increases for public employees and a host of other state-funded programs. At one point, the Gilmore administration had to reassure jittery senators that it would not punish them for their budget rebellion by rewriting their redistricting plan, which smoothed the way for final passage after a nearly six-hour delay.

Gilmore has sent signals that he intends to sign the redistricting plan, telling reporters earlier this week that while he had a few misgivings, "I can't say that they would rise to the level of a red flag at this point or anything that would alarm me." Virginia's redistricting plan, among the first in the nation after the census because of the state's November elections, adds layers of political muscle to the booming suburbs of Northern Virginia, especially outer counties that have produced many Republican officeholders. Several House and Senate seats were created this year for the region, including one heavily Latino House district that Democrats said today will "pack" minorities too tightly in a district in the Baileys Crossroads area of Fairfax County.

"Why did they create such a district?" said state Sen. Patricia S. Ticer (D), of Alexandria, which is losing its largely black Cora Kelly precinct to the new district. "Were they compelled by law to create this district? I don't think so." Republicans and local Latino leaders have hailed the new House seat -- the first of its kind in Virginia -- as a positive development for both the GOP and the ethnic minorities that are reshaping the politics and culture of the Washington suburbs. Ticer's complaints and others like it will probably lead to a Democratic legal challenge to the redistricting plan, but Republicans said they were careful in the once-a-decade process to preserve historically black districts and show more sensitivity to Democratic incumbents than Republicans were granted in the decades when they constituted the legislative minority.

"This plan represents racial fairness and avoids any backwards step," said state Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr. (James City), the Republican floor leader. While the redistricting plan finally sailed smoothly through the assembly -- on a 54 to 41 vote in the House and a 20 to 17 vote in the Senate -- tensions between the two chambers on the budget bubbled up all day, starting at 9 a.m. when House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. (R-Amherst) booted two senior Democrats from a prestigious committee because he feared they might side with the Senate on a routine appropriation. Later, Wilkins refused to let a Republican senator deliver a message to the House from the Senate, which was meeting on the other side of the state Capitol.

Wilkins defended his actions as his prerogative as speaker, but they reflected a near-total breakdown in communication between two sides that have failed to produce a new state budget since the General Assembly adjourned without one Feb. 24. The two sides have been at loggerheads over the pace of car-tax relief, with the House siding with Gilmore on his 70 percent car-tax cut this year and the Senate insisting on a maximum 55 percent cut because of the flattening state economy.

Richmond Post-Dispatch
Getting acquainted with new districts
Tyler Whitley and Pamela Stallsmith
April 15, 2001

State Sen. Nick Rerras R-Norfolk, leafs through a state map to find his way around his newly redrawn district. (Bob Brown) State Sen. Nick Rerras, R-Norfolk, pulled out a Virginia atlas at his Capitol desk Thursday and began preparing for life after redistricting. "What do you know about Mathews County?" he asked a Senate colleague. From a smaller district that currently includes parts of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Rerras' proposed 6th Senatorial District would grow to take in the Eastern Shore counties of Accomack and Northampton plus Mathews County on the Middle Peninsula.

If the redistricting boundaries adopted by the two houses Thursday clear a likely court challenge, Rerras will have to drive through three senatorial districts to get to Mathews. He will have to drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to get to the Eastern Shore. Like many other members of the General Assembly, Rerras will have to get acquainted with new constituents and new territory. At least Rerras and fellow senators will have two years to learn their new districts. Members of the House of Delegates have to run in the new districts in the fall.

Rerras is not the only senator who would be separated within his district by a body of water. Sen. W. Henry Maxwell, D-Newport News, whose district is anchored in black precincts in Newport News and Hampton, has been given two precincts across Hampton Roads in Portsmouth and Suffolk. The once-every-decade redistricting cycle, engineered for the first time this year by Republicans, produced the usual quota of odd shapes, split localities and politically gerrymandered districts. Republicans hope the new districts will increase their majorities and consolidate their power for decades to come.

Democrats charge that the plans won't pass muster with the U.S. Department of Justice, which must clear any changes to Virginia's political boundaries because of the state's history of racial discrimination. In debates last week, Democrats offered a preview of their legal case as they outlined their objections. The assembly meets again this week to take final action on the plans, which then head to Gov. Jim Gilmore. The plans become law when the governor signs them. Mark E. Rush, an associate professor of politics at Washington and Lee University, said the GOP tactics may backfire.

"Voters aren't just ciphers," he said. "If you present voters with different choices, they may behave differently," he said, pointing to the unexpected results that occurred in 1991 when Democrats were in control. In the 1991 elections after redistricting, Democrats lost eight seats in the Senate. Democrats were more successful in drawing protective lines in the House of Delegates. Republicans picked up one seat, increasing their number to 41.

Not all the districts were drawn with politics in mind. Mainly to accommodate a Republican senator, the state Democratic chairwoman, Sen. Emily Couric, D-Charlottesville, was put into a district that runs from Albemarle County to the West Virginia line, about a two-hour drive. Not that Couric is complaining. The new 25th Senatorial District is more Democratic than the existing district. Couric said she probably would have office hours in the nether reaches of the district to get better acquainted with the needs and concerns of her new constituents. The district would include Charlottesville, most of Albemarle, part of Rockbridge and Amherst counties and all of Alleghany, Bath and Nelson counties and Buena Vista, Clifton Forge and Covington.

The current 25th includes all of Albemarle, Greene, Madison and Nelson counties, part of Orange County and all of Charlottesville. The district was carved out at the insistence of state Sen. Malfourd W. Trumbo, R-Botetourt, whose Democrat-created 22nd District now stretches from Bath County southward through Botetourt to Giles County. Trumbo wanted a more compact district. The proposed 22nd forms a horseshoe-shaped district in the Roanoke area.

The proposed new district also includes the home of veteran state Sen. Madison E. Marye, D-Montgomery, whose 39th District was carved up among other southwestern senators. The 39th would be transplanted to Northern Virginia to create an open seat. The colorful Marye, the last farmer in the Senate, is expected to retire. He jokingly told colleagues Thursday that he might move to Northern Virginia and run for the new district. Citing his "Uncle Billy," a fictional character he uses to make a point, Marye said "Uncle Billy is making a hog crate for his female sow."

The two proposed open Senate seats in Northern Virginia, the new 39th and the 34th, were drawn to accommodate two Republican delegates, J.K. O'Brien Jr. and Jeannemarie A. Devolites, both of Fairfax, who want to run for the Senate. Neither is solidly Republican, however. In last fall's elections, both went narrowly for George W. Bush in the presidential election, but the 34th went narrowly for Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb in the Senate election.

The Senate redistricting led to relatively minor changes in the Richmond area. Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III, D-Richmond, would get Charles City county from Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, whose 16th District would stretch into Dinwiddie County. Sen. John C. Watkins, R-Chesterfield, would pick up Amelia County and most of Cumberland. Sen. Stephen H. Martin, R-Chesterfield, would lose all of Amelia and a portion of Dinwiddie. His 11th District would be consolidated in Chesterfield and Colonial Heights. Even without redistricting, the faces will change in the House next year.

Several members have announced plans to step down. Del. W.W. "Ted" Bennett Jr., D-Halifax, will retire from the Southside seat he's held since 1990. Del. Roger J. McClure, R-Fairfax and the co-chairman of the House Militia and Police Committee, said Wednesday he will not return, citing business obligations. Del. Alan A. Diamonstein, D-Newport News, told The Times-Dispatch Thursday that he would not seek re-election to the legislature, which he joined in 1968, even if he loses his quest for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Del. Thomas W. Moss Jr., D-Norfolk, and the former House speaker, plans to run for Norfolk treasurer in the fall and will leave the legislature after 35 years. Del. A. Victor Thomas, D-Roanoke, co-chairman of the House Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, is widely speculated to retire this year, though he has not commented publicly on his plans.

The Richmond area would see several changes under the House redistricting plan. Del. Anne G. Rhodes, R-Richmond, would see much of her district shift into Chesterfield County. The 68th District, which now includes parts of Richmond and Henrico County, would lose its Henrico portion and stretch into Chesterfield to the Robious precinct and south of Midlothian Turnpike. Rhodes was the only Republican to vote against the House plan.

Rhodes, who's often bucked the Allen and Gilmore administrations over tax and social issues, said the GOP leadership was ultimately hurting citizens in their attempt to retaliate against her. While she said she would win the newly drawn district, she also said the areas don't share a community of interest and wouldn't best serve the residents. "They have been used as pawns and their interests disregarded in the game of power and retribution," she said on the House floor before the final vote Thursday. "I am truly sorry. I thought we would do better."

GOP leaders wouldn't say whether they redrew her district to punish Rhodes for straying from party policies. "Everybody's entitled to their opinion, and she's entitled to hers," said House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. of Amherst. "It's a good Republican district, and she can win it."

The western edge of Henrico County would be picked up by Del. V. Earl Dickinson, a Louisa Democrat who's co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Five precincts - Lauderdale, Sadler, Causeway, Stoney Run and West End - would fall under his district. That includes 28,000 people who live around the booming Wyndham area from Short Pump west to the Goochland County line. That upsets Dickinson, who says bustling suburban Henrico shares no community of interest with rural Louisa and Goochland.

Under the plan, the senior Democrat lost Fluvanna County and part of Spotsylvania, which he said have much more in common. Those comments offend the delegate who has represented some of those Henrico voters for the past 10 years in the 72nd District. "He's talking about them like they're stepchildren and they aren't," said Del. John S. Reid, R-Henrico, whose district was redrawn so that it would drop three of those precincts, as well as parts of Chesterfield County.

"These people are good people," Reid said. "They've got more in common than not. These are people who pay their mortgages, want to send their kids to college, pay their taxes and vote." The 74th District, represented by Henrico Democrat A. Donald McEachin, would snake from a precinct in Richmond through eastern Henrico to pick up all of Charles City County and two black majority precincts in Hopewell. The seat also would include a part of a precinct in Prince George County that has no voters. His district is one of the 12 black majority seats in the House plan. Another seat, a new district created in Northern Virginia, targets Hispanics and Asians. "What is the community of interest between Hopewell and the rest of the 74th?" he asked during a floor debate Wednesday.

The Washington Post
GOP Designs Mostly Latino N.Va. District; Proposal Would Link Minority Enclaves
Craig Timberg and R.H. Melton
April 11, 2001

Republican leaders today proposed creating the first legislative district in Virginia without a majority of either whites or blacks, linking fast-growing Latino and Asian American communities in Arlington, Alexandria and the Baileys Crossroads section of Fairfax County. The move could strengthen the political clout of the immigrant communities that are emerging throughout the Washington suburbs but are not dense or large enough to command legislative districts of their own. Republicans say the proposed House district would be 42 percent Latino, 20 percent black and 10 percent Asian American. It would have no incumbent, increasing the chances for non-white candidates to emerge.

The announcement came as Republicans, in control of the once-a-decade redistricting process for the first time, fine-tuned a plan that is headed to the first round of floor votes in both the House and Senate on Wednesday. Party leaders fought off most suggestions from the out-of-power Democrats today, but took seriously a letter from the NAACP urging a new legislative district in Northern Virginia with strong minority representation. Recent census data show that Latinos are the fastest-growing group in the area, surging by 107 percent in the past decade in Northern Virginia and 89 percent in the Washington area overall. "

The best thing is that finally the Republican Party is recognizing we are the sleeping giants," said Freddy Morales, of Annandale, who heads the Virginia chapter of the National Republican Hispanic Assembly. "Maybe we are going to wake up now." Del. John H. "Jack" Rust Jr. (R-Fairfax), who is taking the lead in redrawing House districts for the region, said the proposed district would be Democratic territory, but that Republicans would recruit a competitive minority candidate for the district in November's elections.

"It's also taking a bunch of people who are disenfranchised and giving them an opportunity to get representation," Rust said. Democrats made a similar proposal on Monday and were not impressed by today's Republican plan, which puts two Democratic delegates from Arlington -- James F. Almand and L. Karen Darner -- in the same district. The Republicans' proposed new district "was a byproduct of trying to force two [Democratic] incumbents into one area," said Teresa Martinez, a Democratic Party activist in Arlington.

In the proposed district, the 49th, migrants from Central and South America, Southeast Asia and many Third World nations have transformed formerly white, suburban enclaves along Columbia Pike into a more urban corridor flavored by the cultures, food and institutions of their homelands. The district includes a significant slice of Arlington County, from just beyond the Fairfax County line at Baileys Crossroads, eastward almost to the Pentagon; the 49th also has one northern precinct of Alexandria.

Northern Virginia is 11 percent Latino, 11 percent black and 9 percent Asian American, according to census numbers. The region's delegation to Richmond has no Latinos or blacks. An African American, George E. Lovelace, held a House seat from Fairfax in 1996 and 1997. Del. Marian Van Landingham (D-Alexandria), co-chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, said that many of the residents of the proposed district are recent immigrants who are unlikely to vote, either because they are not citizens or not yet heavily involved in community affairs.

"To go out and begin to talk about them being able to elect their person is a bit of a stretch," said Van Landingham, who predicted that Darner would move into the district in time for the fall elections. "My assumption is they'll reelect Karen Darner." Darner said she was inclined to relocate. "I'd have to move across the street," she said, adding that it was Democrats who first proposed a heavily Latino district. The Republicans "got the idea from us." Latino and Asian American community leaders called the proposed district a step forward for minority political participation, but questioned whether a minority delegate would be elected any time soon.

Jose Ramos, president of the Salvadoran-American Association of Northern Virginia, said the redistricting would spur an effort to register more Latino voters. "I think we're part of the new reality," said Ramos, who lives in the area near the Cora Kelly Center in Alexandria, part of the proposed new district. He said he does not think the area's Latino community is ready to put up a candidate for state office. Ramos said most of the Latinos in the new district would be Salvadorans, but that other Latin Americans, notably Bolivians, figure prominently in the community. Ilryong Moon, a Korean American who formerly served on the Fairfax County School Board, said Latinos may not be the largest voting bloc.

"I suspect that a large part of that population is probably not made up of [U.S.] citizens, so they won't be able to vote," he said. Besides, "we cannot assume that a minority voter would vote for a minority candidate," he said. The proposed district was the product of talks between House Republican leaders and the Virginia branch of the NAACP, as well as other voting-rights advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Council. House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. (R-Amherst) and King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the state NAACP, said the civil rights groups raised the possibility of creating the district by pointing out the stunning transformation of Northern Virginia's population.

"The issue was for voters to have some influence, especially in those communities that historically have not participated," Khalfani said. Wilkins said the district "is the logical outgrowth of the population shifts up there. We hadn't really thought about it until the NAACP sent us a letter." In the Senate, the Republican majority also took special steps to preserve the Latino community around Baileys Crossroads, revising its plan for a new 31st District to include the Baileys precinct, rather than putting it farther south in the 35th District. Sen. William C. Mims (R-Loudoun), who drafted the Senate's redistricting plan for Northern Virginia, said moving the Baileys precinct would help maintain "the community of interest" for Fairfax Latinos. However, Sen. Leslie L. Byrne (D-Fairfax), a member of the Senate redistricting committee, said that the Mims plan had the effect of "slicing and dicing" the Latino community and diluting its strength. Staff writer William Branigin contributed to this report. 

 

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