Surprise redistricting: Local GOP delegates mum about controversy

Business for the day had already concluded in Richmond on January 21– Martin Luther King, Jr. Day– when Republican senators took advantage of the absence of a Democratic civil rights leader, Henry Marsh, who was attending the presidential inauguration, to push through a far-reaching redistricting bill while they had a 20-19 advantage in the evenly split Senate.

The bold action has put the national spotlight on the Virginia General Assembly again, and won accolades from Stephen Colbert, who's dubbed the Republican senators "alpha dogs of the week."

Quips Colbert, "In the words of Dr. King, I have been to the mountaintop, and while I was there, they heavily redistricted the Promised Land."

The bill carved up Dem state Senator Creigh Deeds' 25th District, which contains most of Albemarle, and now is in the hands of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates. At press time, they hadn't taken any action on it.

House Minority Leader David Toscano denounced the move as a "power grab," as well as being unconstitutional and violating "all sense of fair play." He's also argued on the House floor that the amended bill is "not germane" to the original House bill, because it was so substantially changed in the Senate. It's up to House Speaker Bill Howell to rule on that.

Albemarle also is represented by three Republican delegates, and the Hook checked in to see where they stand on the redistricting bill that has created a firestorm. Delegates Rob Bell, Steve Landes, and Matt Fariss did not return phone calls from the Hook.

Nor did Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), who represents eastern Albemarle and whose redrawn district would have eight percent more Republican voters. A person answering the phone in his office referred calls to Senator John Watkins (R-Powhatan), the man who introduced the redistricting bill January 21. Watkins did not return a phone call from the Hook.

A reporter did catch up with one Republican– Supervisor Ken Boyd, who sought the GOP nomination for the 5th congressional district in 2010. As noted by, Boyd was directly affected by the redistricting bill, which moved his Key West neighborhood from the Dem-heavy 57th into the more Republican-leaning 58th.

"I was totally surprised to see it go through," says Boyd. "Key West is split right down the middle," he explains, with part of the neighborhood in the 57th and part in the 58th– the sort of problem the bill originally was supposed to fix.

"I think if we can fix the precinct problem," says Boyd, "I'm for that."

He calls the move that has Democrats howling "politics as usual. It's not like it's something that's never been done before in [former Democratic House Majority Leader] Dickie Cranwell's day." Boyd adds, "This is the way they play in Richmond."

On the heels of the redistricting bill– which Senate tiebreaker Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling said he wouldn't support, and which Governor Bob McDonnell didn't even know was coming– another bill emerged from a Republican senator that would reapportion Virginia's 13 electoral college votes in presidential elections. 

Instead of the current winner-of-the-popular-vote-takes-all, Senator Bill Carrico's bill would give electoral votes to the winner of the most congressional districts. In 2012, popular-vote winner Barack Obama would have gotten four electoral votes instead of 13.

“The governor does not support this legislation," says McDonnell spokesperson Tucker Martin. "He believes Virginia’s existing system works just fine as it is. He does not believe there is any need for a change.” The bill apparently died January 25 when two Republicans in the 20-20 split Senate said they would not support it.

"This is part of a clearly stated agenda by national Republicans to extend gerrymandering from congressional districts to the presidential election," declares Richmond Sunlight's Waldo Jaquith. "Dividing electoral votes is only happening in states that Obama carried and that have Republican-controlled statehouses," he adds.

Jaquith predicts the redistricting bill will pass the House of Delegates– and that it will damage the General Assembly's goal to address transportation in a bipartisan way.

"It's off the rail, to use a metaphor," he says. "I don't see how you can return to transportation or anything else after this huge breach of trust. It's a tremendous hurdle to get past."

“The governor’s focus is transportation, education, and the budget," says spokesperson Martin. "Not redistricting. He was surprised by the Senate’s action on [January 21]. He does not believe it’s how business should be conducted in Richmond. If this bill makes it to the governor’s desk he’ll review it at that time, in great detail, as he does with all legislation.”

That he condemns the method doesn't guarantee McDonnell won't eventually sign the bill should it come before him, ventures satirist Colbert.

“It’s kind of a game-time decision," he says. "After all, if somebody offered me a panda burger, I would definitely say, ‘The idea is repellant and offensive, but if you’re just going to throw it out...’”

Jaquith believes McDonnell's decision to sign or veto the bill depends on his wider political aspirations and how great the opposition is to it.

"Virginia can't go one year without being a national laughing stock," says Jaquith. "These are raw displays of political power. The goal is not to be loved; the goal is to win."


MLK day, another faux holiday...pasted on so many others that only people paid by taxpayers get off 100%.

Oh, and Waldo is a serious lefty who make no bones about his leanings on his own "News" blog. He is clearly not a news source to attribute without detailing the fact that he has an agenda.

Both parties do this....whether you like it or not. And as far as VA being a national laughing stock, what a stupid statement. I've lived in 8 states and everywhere I've lived people comment about what a great state VA is. Oh, I live in IL about a laughing stock.........

Chicago, Illionois. Highest murder rate of any city in the entire world. Total gun ban. A Mayor who, at an election gala for Bill Clinton stabbed a table with a steak knife like a maniac over and over, shouting the names of Bill Clintons enemies, followed by the word "Dead!", with each stab, while Bill Clinton looked on with a smile of approval.

But hey, the guy can dance, and his daddy splattered the brains out of all sorts of Palestinian children as the head of the Irgun, plus he used to work for Obama so let's cut him a break

"Laughingstock?" Someone takes themselves way to seriously. The spluttering indignation is the funny part of something that happens all the time. If the left did it, they would call it something like "creating more fair sharing," which is how they also justify taking money frrom those who work to give it to thos who dont.

"all sense of fair play" according to Toscano. Similar to the Albemarle BOS " power grab" keeping Mallek chairman. What goes around comes around.

Here's what Waldo Jaquith and Lisa Provence don't want you to know, don't care about themselves, and will endeavor to keep you dumbed down about:

The democrats drew some extremely gerrymandred senate lines back when they were in control in early 2011. They were so thorough in their gerrymandering, that they managed to win 20 of 40 seats despite getting CRUSHED in the November 2011 election's popular vote 58% to 38%. This may have been the most stunning example of gerrymandered district lines since 1965.. Don't believe me? Find a more absurd result anywhere in the country since then!

If either of these people were actually honest or fair journalists, they would have included that in this article. nephew saw this and asked "isn't that like Gerrymandering?"

That's right...even an 11 year-old can understand concepts that our professional "politicians" either:

1. Have long forgotten.
2. Are for some reason incapable of grasping.
3. Do realize are despicable and wrong, but simply do not care.

"They were so thorough in their gerrymandering, that they managed to win 20 of 40 seats despite getting CRUSHED in the November 2011 election's popular vote 58% to 38%."

Therefore you believe that GOP leadership of the US House of Representatives is illegitimate. Pot. Kettle. Black.

R.I.P. Carena Lightner, killed by a drink driver.

Has anyone caught the Democrat flim-flam perpetrated locally by Rooker and Mallek at the BOS to withhold the chairmanship from Duane Snow?

Where's the hue and cry from liberals for these similiar shennanigans, huh? You won't hear it when it is liberals pulling a fast one.

Now, dry your eyes and put your big boy pants on. Politics ain't pretty and both political parties are full of weasels.

Both political parties are full of weasels and this kind of

Anyone that thinks this is FAIR, must have forgotten that this occurred because ONE DEMOCRATIC STATE SENATOR, was away celebrating something important to this county. Seems like HE was doing the correct thing. This is just nasty politics! Those Republican Senators are a nasty bunch. NO WAY are they representing the people of Virginia. And yes, many in America do consider this a laughing issue. Right up there with Governor Ultrasound.

US House popular vote was 49% to 48% - well within the margin of error given all the uncontested seats. No comparison whatsoever to 58% to 38%, except for those very challenged at math..

The point was/is that this is only news NOW when republicans try and make the districts a bit fairer. Everyone around here was AOK with hideous gerrymandering when the democrats did it in 2011.

John, ultrasounds show your victims, and that is what drives you nuts. People in Charlottesville were horrified by Uncle Tom's Cabin also, which did the same thing for slavery's victims. Seeing is believing.

That "hideous" 2011 redistricting plan was also A-OK with the Republican governor, and directly led to at least one Democratic state senator losing his seat. The 58-38 you keep quoting is primarily due to the fact that 11 Republican state senators ran unopposed in 2011 while only 4 Democratic state senators did. If we're going to hand-wave away the US House results due to "all the uncontested seats" then we probably shouldn't be counting uncontested seats to make a point about the Virginia Senate. In the 23 races where both parties ran candidates, the two-party vote was 52% D and 48% R. Admittedly, the Democrats won 16 of those 23 seats, which is a lot more than you might expect with a 4% total vote advantage, but it's considerably less extreme than Pennsylvania's US House delegation for instance. Note that this doesn't add up to 40 races because there was also one member of each party who handily defeated an independent opponent.

The Republicans know they can't win fairly, so they are resorting to underhanded tactics. Demography is on the side of the Democrats. And Waldo is right--between Governor Ultrasound and this latest action by the Virginia Senate, our fair Commonwealth is, indeed, a laughingstock.

No surprise here that even simple mathematics can be dismissed by blinded partisans. 58/38 will never compare to 48/49 to any rational person. The point remains that hideously partisan gerrymandering was AOK for these "journalists," and always will be so long as democrats are the beneficiaries. Indeed, gerrymandering is a southern democratic TRADITION. Same goes for vote fraud, as we all saw with ACORN in 2008. Oh, wait, those with those blinders on don't see any such thing..

Since gerrymandering was AOK with these "journalists" in 2011, their opinion regarding any redistricting dramas is irrelevant in 2013.

When the right does it: Underhanded
When the left does it: Fairness

Wonder why some have no faith in the media....including Waldos slanted bias.

They'd be high fiving each other now if the democrats had slipped through a bill 20-19 if a republican took the day off, and writing up the story of how the neanderthal, lazy dope shirked his duties.. They'd fit in some reference to a an ultrasound, too.

Ever notice that there obsession with ultrasounds is never, ever accompanied by a picture ultrasound?

Anybody who says that I haven't held Democrats' feet to the fire on redistricting is a liar or doesn't know what they're talking about.

I've said loudly and repeatedly, for years, that Democrats are to be trusted no more than Republicans on redistricting. In 2007, anticipating redistricting in 2011, I started a project to get every member of the General Assembly on the record in support of non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting, warning that vindictive Democrats would establish highly partisan redistricting, and calling out Democrats when they decided they were no longer interested in redistricting reform once they figured they'd have the majority of the Senate come 2011. All along the way I spoke regularly on this topic during weekly interview spots on WVTF and in easily a half dozen public speaking engagements. (In one memorable event that I put on, I got House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong—head of the Democrats—to say on the record that he supported redistricting reform...unless Democrats had the majority.)

Redistricting reform is the single most important thing that the General Assembly should be working on. It's the root of all other political problems in Virginia and in the United States.