Thursday, February 12, 2009

Will Redistricting Make Virginia More Competitive?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from Virginia.

Last month, Virginia State Senator R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) introduced a bill to require a bipartisan commission to redraw the state’s districts after the 2010 US Census. The goal was to make redistricting “less political”, reduce gerrymandering, and make elections more competitive for incumbents.

Earlier this month, the State Senate approved the bill unanimously. Democratic Governor Tim Kaine likes the bill. Yet it had already been shot down by the House of Delegates in a 4 to 2 decision within a Privileges and Elections subcommittee.

In fact, this is the seventh time Deeds has introduced the bill and the third time it has passed in the State Senate, but it has never been approved by the House of Delegates subcommittee.

Why won’t the lower House approve?

Backdrop: With their second Democratic governor in a row, two Democratic US Senators, a Democratic Congressional Delegation, a new Democratically-controlled State Senate, and their electoral votes for President Obama, the Commonwealth is quickly turning blue. The last bastion of GOP power is in the House of Delegates.

To make incumbents vulnerable with redistricting would put the Republicans at serious risk of losing control - or at least edging their control - of the House of Delegates where they currently hold an eight-delegate lead.

To make matters worse for them, seven Republican delegates have announced they are retiring or running for higher office. The blog Virginia Political Wire also expects as many as seven more Republicans to retire from the lower House. The Virginia GOP will not want to lose seats due to retiring incumbents north of Richmond.

In fact, this is not at all surprising. It is very typical for redistricting to protect incumbents when two state Houses are controlled by different parties. It is only when one party controls both Houses that redistricting makes elections competitive - and in such a way as to favor the party with power.

In Virginia, redistricting will favor incumbents of both parties - so long as the GOP can hold on to the House of Delegates after the 2009 elections. Other than that, races in the Commonwealth may become more competitive as the Democratic surge continues, but it will not be because of redistricting.

To see a great map of the House of Delegates districts - according to party - please visit

No comments: