On a party-line vote Monday, Virginia state Senate Republicans passed a redistricting measure that places Democrat Sen. Creigh Deeds and Emmett Hanger, an Augusta County Republican in the same 25th district.
It also realigns other Senate districts including Roanoke’s 21st held by Democrat John Edwards. It sets up a possible loss of Democratic seats in the evenly divided 50/50 Senate that would give Republicans an advantage to control the Senate in the 2015 elections.
Democrats are furious at what they called a “dirty trick.” Senator Henry Marsh, a Democratic legislator and civil rights lawyer was in Washington, D.C. celebrating inauguration day.
Republican’s took advantage of Marsh’s absence to garner a victory vote 20-19 in a last minute amendment to a bill making slight adjustments to the redistricting plans (HB 259). If there had been a tie Lt. Governor Bill Bolling indicated he would have voted against the bill saying it sets a “bad precedent.” Republicans were afraid to count on Bolling to break the tie. Speculation still swirls around Bolling’s possible independent bid for governor. Bolling was pushed aside by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli when a May 18 convention was chosen over the already announced primary in the year prior.
Governor Bob McDonnell said he was also surprised. He did not say whether he would sign the bill if it passed the House of Delegates.
Senator John Edwards, through his administrative aide Alison Baird, said that at least 43% of Virginians will be in a new Senate district. The 21st district would now be Roanoke City and a few precincts in Roanoke County along with the counties of Craig, Pulaski, Bland and Wytheville. He loses Montgomery County entirely and the change puts more republican precincts in his district.
“The Democrats came to Richmond to govern. Apparently the Republicans came to play games and power grab – a sad situation,” Baird said.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in a Press Release Tuesday admonished Senate Democratic Party Leader Dick Saslaw for his statement saying that, “Transportation is no longer alive. It is gone,… dead.” Democrats threatened to withhold the 21st vote needed for appropriations approval. The Lieutenant Governor cannot break ties on appropriation bills.
Cuccinelli responded to Senator Saslaw’s threats to derail any transportation compromise: “As someone who has repeatedly supported bipartisan redistricting plans – including when my party was in the majority – I have sought to improve Virginia’s redistricting process. However, the Democrats’ threat to throw away the potential to advance transportation during this legislative session out of pure partisan spite ignores the needs of Virginia. Virginians deserve better.”
Terry McAuliffe, Democratic candidate for Virginia’s governor in 2013 said: ”I join Governor 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. 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.”
Sen. Mark Herring, Democratic candidate for attorney general was pleased that Governor Bob McDonnell condemned the Senate GOP redistricting move calling it a “bad way to do business.”
Herring said, “I am pleased that the Governor has condemned the outrageous actions of the Senate Republicans. If the Governor is serious about working in a bipartisan manner to move our Commonwealth forward, he should assure the public that he will veto the redistricting plan to ensure this session remains on track.”