Governor calls Senate map ‘political gerrymandering’

Published 10:09 am Saturday, April 16, 2011

RICHMOND—Gov. Bob McDonnell vetoed the General Assembly’s legislative redistricting plan Friday due to concerns over the Senate district lines.

In a letter to lawmakers, McDonnell called the Senate’s plan “a type of political gerrymandering that Virginians have asked us to leave in the past,” adding it violates the one-person-one-vote ideal, does not do enough to retain communities of interest and passed the chamber despite a lack of bipartisan support.

Sen. Fred Quayle, R-Suffolk, said he was not surprised by McDonnell’s decision and that there were many problems with the Democratic-controlled Senate’s plan.

“The next step is the Democrats will have to offer something as an alternative,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said Friday Democrats would do whatever possible to uphold their plan even if it means filing a lawsuit.

“If they think we’re going to let the Republicans draw our districts, then somebody’s been smoking something that isn’t good for them,” Lucas said. “We’re going to try to hold on to what we have.”

Quayle said he wouldn’t be surprised if the issue ends up in court but added that it wouldn’t be a favorable solution for either party.

“We would rather it not go to court and I’m sure the Democrats would rather it not go to court,” he said.

Quayle said it was hard to pinpoint specific problems with the Democratic plan but said there were problems with the way Virginia Beach was split. He was especifically concerned with the loss of a district in the city.

“It’s the largest city in the state and they butchered it,” Quayle said. “They did the same thing with Chesapeake.”

Quayle also said the plan would’ve changed the district he represents. The new lines would’ve taken the northern portion of Isle of Wight County and the northern portion of Suffolk away from him. He said his district would have extended into portions of Virginia Beach.

Lucas said the localities she represents wouldn’t change under the Senate plan. would pick up more precincts in Portsmouth and Suffolk. She would also pick up parts of Chesapeake and Surry.

“I don’t mind traveling my district,” Lucas said. “I like my district.”

McDonnell commended the House for its bipartisan efforts in redistricting House districts but said members could do more to strengthen the plan.

There is no specific deadline for new plans to be proposed, said Jeff Caldwell, McDonnell’s press secretary, but plans need to be completed by early May in order to stay on a good timeline for upcoming elections.

Delegate Bill Barlow, D-Smithfield, said he would prefer to standardize a system in which a bipartisan commission redraws district lines. He said bills introduced to make that system law have failed repeatedly.

“Strong attempts have been made to go to that system,” Barlow said. “Virginia has introduced bills to go to the bipartisan commission system, but the bills were killed in subcommittee.”

Quayle said if McDowell were to suggest a redistricting plan for the Senate to adopt it would most likely come from a bipartisan advisory commission he appointed.