On a party-line vote, Virginia state Senate Republicans passed a controversial redistricting measure that could give the party an easier path to control in 2015 elections, leaving Democrats furious at what they called a “dirty trick.”Virginia’s Senate is split evenly, 20-20, between Republicans and Democrats. Democratic Sen. Henry Marsh, a civil rights lawyer who has been in the state Senate since 1991, was in Washington on Monday for President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
The redistricting amendment passed 20-19, as Republicans took advantage of Marsh’s absence. Democrats sounded unsuspecting of the move, which Virginia politics blogger Ben Tribbett wrote could “create a GOP supermajority.”
Tribbett outlines the changes: Five Democratic seats would be in play because they become more Republican. Meanwhile, two traditionally swing districts would become safe Republican districts.
“There have been no hearings on this plan. The public has no idea what these districts look like,” Democratic Sen. Don McEachin said. “The good working spirit that this Senate has had will come to a very quiet, very sudden end if this bill is passed. To do this by surprise, to rush it through in a day, even though they control the Committee on Privileges and Elections — this is sneaking, underhanded, and beneath the dignity of the Senate.”
Even Republicans and conservatives sound unhappy that Republicans decided to pursue the legislative strategy. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office did not say whether he would think about vetoing the measure. The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Jeff Schapiro reported that he was “steamed” because he was worried it could threaten his agenda in his last year in office.
Conservative blogger Shaun Kenney also lamented the move, calling it a “mistake” and saying it sets precedent for future partisan battles.
“I’m wincing pretty hard at this, guys,” he wrote. “This is dirty, dirty pool. To do it on MLK Jr. day? Doubles the embarrassment.”
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