The Virginia Supreme Court’s special masters released their first redistricting map proposals Tuesday, receiving mixed reactions over what will be a major shakeup for Virginia incumbents if final drafts are similar to the proposals.
The court chose Republican-nominated Sean Trende and Democratic-nominated Bernard Grofman to draw the maps.
“These maps reflect a true joint effort on our part. We agreed on almost all issues initially, and the few issues on which we initially disagreed were resolved by amicable discussion,” the special masters wrote in a memo. “[W]e took seriously the Court’s command that, although we were nominated by the political parties, we would behave in ‘an apolitical and nonpartisan manner.’ Our duty is owed not to the parties that nominated us, but rather to the Court that appointed us and to the residents of the Commonwealth that it serves.”
APL Consulting President Andrew Loposser, who is also the Arlington GOP executive committee chair, told The Virginia Star that the proposals are “less than ideal for Republicans.”
Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax), who was part of Virginia’s failed Redistricting Commission, is concerned by lines that split communities of interest.
“A flawed and opaque redistricting process has produced flawed and problematic maps. On first glance they may appear to be an improvement over existing lines, but the closer you look the worse they get,” he tweeted.
“It’s just a first draft,” CNalysis Director Chaz Nuttycombe told The Star. “What I will say, I think it’s a much better start than what the commission was producing.”
Although the overall lean of the maps appears to favor Democrats, the congressional map is bad for Virginia’s three congresswomen, all Democrats.
Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) would reside entirely outside district seven in the new maps which would split Henrico and Goochland between conservative districts one and five. The new district seven, moved to Northern Virginia, would be less competitive and provide opportunity for a more progressive Democrat like Jennifer Carrol Foy.
The changes to that district’s lines also prompted statements from potential Republican candidates. Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) said he’d run in Virginia’s tenth district. Taylor Keeney said she wouldn’t run against Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA-01), although she’s waiting to see final maps. Other candidates are also watching for final results.
Nuttycombe said that under the proposal’s lines, State Senator Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) is likely to defeat Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-VA-02), and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) becomes more vulnerable to a GOP challenger, perhaps State Senator Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier), although Wexton likely maintains the advantage.
Overall, the proposed lines create five safe Democratic districts and four safe Republican districts, with districts two and ten competitive.
“I don’t mind the [congressional] lines. I actually like them,” Nuttycombe said. “The House of Delegates map needs a lot of work. The state Senate map needs a little work.”
General Assembly Maps
Nuttycombe said House of Delegates maps split Roanoke and the New River Valley unnecessarily.
The Virginia Public Access Project’s analysis of the proposal shows that the Senate maps would create one more strong Democratic and strong Republican seat than currently exist, but overall balance would remain the same: 21 seats that are strong or lean Democratic, and 15 seats that are strong or lean Republican, with four competitive.
House of Delegates Republicans lose three strong seats, but gain four lean Republican seats; Democrats gain eight strong seats, but lose 11 lean Democratic seats. That creates 50 Democratic seats, 40 Republican seats, and 10 competitive seats. Currently, there are 53 Democratic seats and 39 Republican seats with eight competitive seats, according to VPAP.
VPAP also reported that 52 out of 100 delegates are drawn into districts with other delegates, and 20 out of 40 senators are in districts with other senators.
A spokesperson for House of Delegates Speaker-nominee Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) declined to comment, and a Senate GOP spokesperson said the caucus would comment to the Supreme Court. Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) did not return a request for comment.
The Virginia Supreme Court is accepting public comment and has two public hearings scheduled December 15 and 17 before the maps are finalized.
Loposser said, “I think it’s a little premature for candidates and Republicans across the state to be freaking out over these maps. We don’t know if the court will make these the final maps, or if they will make changes and come up with something different than what we see today. I think everyone needs to take a breath and wait for the court to finalize the maps before we start speculating on them.”