Sunday, May 1, 2011

Virginia Redistricting lawsuit unlikely from Republican party or its elected officials - reading between the lines

"What's done is done," - Sen. Obenshain on Gov. Mcdonnell's signing of HB 5005 the 2011 Virginia House and Senate redistricting bill.

Reading between the lines I think the chances of an official Republican party challenge to senate Redistricting in 2011 are pretty slim. 

RPV chairman Pat Mullins put out a statement including the lines: "With word tonight that Governor McDonnell will sign the redistricting plan created by the General Assembly, the 2011 campaign can officially begin. I feel great about our prospects of growing our majority in the House of Delegates and reclaiming a majority in the state Senate."

Even more telling are the comments in an email to supporters from Sen. Obenshain, a conservative stalwart of the Senate and one of the five Senators (two more might have voted against if they were present) to vote against the plan.  Sen. Obenshain said, in part, "We had an opportunity to say "no" to this map, and I think we should have done so. The bill is signed. What's done is done."

It does not take much to read between the lines and see the elected and party officials are unlikely to pursue legal remedies on redistricting.  "What's done is done"

Full statement from Sen. Obenshain after the jump.

Stand and Fight

Dear Paul,

I voted "no" on the redistricting plan and here's why. 

There was a moment earlier this week when a unanimous Senate vote on redistricting was in reach - when it appeared that the most egregious elements of the Democrats' first plan had been dropped, and more fair lines might prevail.

But as I learned a long time ago in politics, you don't get your hopes up until the vote has been taken. Because as Thursday dragged on, a meaningful compromise was shelved in favor of one that unnecessarily splits localities in a Democratic effort to leave some Republicans without a district.

Real progress was made in the Virginia Beach area, and we have the Governor's veto of the Senate Democrats' first, outrageous plan to thank for that. But the lines are still a mess, especially in Northern Virginia and around Roanoke, with Roanoke County split three ways and Bedford County cut in half.

It's a partisan process; I both understand and accept that. Although I don't like that the plan the Senate adopted draws incumbent Republicans into the same districts - which it does in two areas: in Tidewater to Harry Blevins (R-Chesapeake) and Fred Quayle (R-Suffolk) and in the Roanoke/Lynchburg area to Ralph Smith (R-Botetourt) and Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg)  - that isn't the source of my objection. I do object to the fact that this goal was so important to Senate Democrats that they were willing to turn localities into jigsaw puzzles.

Two months ago, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw told a radio host that he wouldn't be "doing a very good job" if he couldn't deliver seats to his party through redistricting, adding, "[O]ur goal is to make the Democratic districts, particularly the marginal ones, a little better off than they are now." 

By that yardstick, Senate Democrats have succeeded.

Because it is a partisan process, and to some degree, a necessarily adversarial one. That doesn't mean that both sides have to come out swinging, but if only one side shows up, the process doesn't work as intended.

Republicans had a unique opportunity to control the Governor's mansion and both legislative chambers after the 2011 elections - an opportunity based on voting trends in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the continuation of a conservative wave that began in 2009. By going along with this plan (as many did), this opportunity is in serious jeopardy.

I can anticipate the objection: how can you criticize one set of partisan lines while advocating partisan goals of one's own?

Two reasons: firstly, there's nothing wrong with each side trying to gain an advantage; the problem is when they ignore objective criteria, putting partisanship above every other consideration. Secondly, Senate Republicans weren't out for some massive "grab," just representative districts that reflect the partisan composition of the state as a whole.

The final plan doesn't do that. Instead, it just slashes away at Republicans, nowhere more egregiously than with Ralph Smith's district, which it eliminates outright. Now the Governor has signed this bill, and I understand his reasons.  My preference would have been to defeat it, or, failing that, for a gubernatorial amendment or veto.

Of course, that would not have been a popular course, at least with my House colleagues. I certainly have no desire to interfere with the House map, or to weaken the House Republican majority. But what good is a House majority if the Senate in Democrats' hands continues in its role as a roadblock, derailing conservative legislation from the Governor and the House? I would like to give my House colleagues a more willing partner in the Senate of Virginia.

The Governor and our Republican Senate negotiators did work hard to produce a better map, and there's no doubt that they moved the ball forward, but we're still left with a plan that leaves much to be desired, and which favors Senate Democrats in a state that, at least right now, clearly favors Republicans. I just hope that we're not kicking ourselves over a missed opportunity on November 8th.

This is not about me; I have no complaints about the district I serve - I never have -- it has been untouched and unchanged throughout this process. (Rest assured, it isn't a result of a lack of effort by Senate Democrats - they would have drawn me into a district that extended from Arlington had it been possible.)  But I would like to have the opportunity to work in a chamber that reflects the conservative leanings of Virginia's electorate. I would like to chip away at the barriers Senate Democrats have erected to the reform agenda so clearly favored by the Governor, my House Colleagues and a majority of Virginians.

We had an opportunity to say "no" to this map, and I think we should have done so. The bill is signed. What's done is done. There remains a path to a conservative majority in the Senate.  It is going to be arduous.  We have some outstanding new candidates (more on them later).

Now we stand and fight.

With best regards,
Mark D. Obenshain
Virginia State Senator
Authorized and paid for by Friends of Mark Obenshain  |  540.437.1451  |

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