Home Virginia Politics Potential Gerrymandering of 31st State Senate District Stirs Up Hornet’s Nest

Potential Gerrymandering of 31st State Senate District Stirs Up Hornet’s Nest


Earlier today, the Washington Post Virginia Politics blog reported on State Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw’s “possible plan to redraw Whipple’s seat in redistricting next month so that it would include new precincts in McLean and Great Falls.” Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, who is retiring from the seat after this year, is quoted as opining that redistricting in this way would be “advantageous to us, obviously,” as it would “make some of our very Democratic districts somewhat less Democratic.” The reaction to this potential gerrymandering? A few choice quotes:

*The Post article quotes blogger and potential 31st State Senate district candidate, Ben Tribbett, who says he is “outraged by the plans of Senator Saslaw to dilute the youth voter influence in the 31st district by running the district through McLean and Great Falls.”

*On NLS’ Facebook page, Miles Grant comments sarcastically that “Someone should really tell Arlington Economic Development that young professionals aren’t really all that important” (http://www.arlingtonvirginiausa.com/docs/creativeclass.pdf).

*On Facebook, Democratic/progressive activist Aimee Fausser adds:

See, what I want to know is if MMW, Saslaw, etc. have walked down the street in Arlington lately. Really, young professionals won’t be impacted??

Please do run, Ben, even if this goes down, the leadership needs to be held accountable.

*Also on Facebook, former ACDC Chair Peter Rousselot writes:

There is a complete logical non sequitur between MMW’s concession that the new 31st Senate District might well extend far, far beyond the NW borders of Arlington County and her parallel effort to argue that, even if that turns out to be true, there will be no dilution of voting power of young voters in the RB Corridor compared to the current boundaries of the 31st District. MMW’s statement that “They would not be currently the dominant factor in this district, so I’m not seeing how they would be diluted” is simply wrong. A significant reduction in the voting power of any group is a “significant dilution” whether or not they start out as “the dominant factor”.

*Finally, Brian Devine adds:

I agree with Miles and Aimee. Progressive young professionals shouldn’t be taken for granted and denied deserved representation in richmond

Looks like somebody stirred up a major hornet’s nest on this one. Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone in Arlington – except perhaps Republicans – being happy about this one.

  • Johnny Longtorso

    having one district diluted, or losing the State Senate majority? Saslaw, for all his faults, is only floating this idea to try to protect the Democratic majority in the Senate, because keeping the 31st packed in as a 70-30 Dem district isn’t going to help the Democrats maintain at least 21 seats in the Senate.

  • NWVirginian

    are the reason that the Senate Democratic Caucus is in shambles. There’s no mentoring, no messaging, no outreach, no plan, no nothing. This utter lack of respect for the creative class and other young professionals is a great example of why the Senate Democratic leadership needs to go.

  • Cool_Arrow

    Let me throw this out there. I am under 30 and live in Alexandria and used to live in Arlington. We need to stop packing as many Democrats as we can into one district! If we can make a 70% Democratic district a 60% Democratic district chances are that we will still elect a solid progressive Democrat to the district. Arlington continued to elect MMW who clearly doesn’t fit the mold of a young progressive over and over. Having an Arlington based seat does not guarantee that a young professional minded Senator will represent them.

    Johnny is absolutely right, let’s get over this and ensure that we can do whatever we can to keep the Senate majority intact! Our two strongholds are African-American districts which we can’t really dilute due to the VRA along with their shrinking population and NoVa, in particular Arlington and Alexandria. Shall we make sure that Arlington gets its own super 70% blue seat in exchange for having no check on the GOP administration? No check on that can also mean that the gerrymandered Congressional maps stay the way they are. Having a court ordered map may yield an additional Democratic seat amongst other things. For all the faults of Saslaw I’d take him over any Tea Party leader any day.

    It is a no-brainer to me, draw a map that soaks up a few McLean and Great Falls precincts and splits Arlington’s strongly Democratic voters just a bit so that you can help other NoVa based seats to save the majority.

    We are currently operating under a GOP gerrymander. They want Arlington all into one district!  

  • NotJohnSMosby

    Look, Ben and Miles are usually 100% drama queens and usually at least 99% about touting their own dubious needs to be heard.  Basically, when they bitch about something like this, I tend to support whoever they’re bitching against.

    In this case, there’s a very simple reason why expanding the 31st out into McLean makes sense – it’s called helping Janet Howell primarily, and at least three other Dem senators secondly.  For Janet, she’s pretty safe, but Caren Merrick is running and supposedly has some major dough behind her.  So, putting this potential candidate in with extremely liberal Arlington makes life a lot easier for Janet.  Secondly, by moving Howell’s district a bit more to the west, it bolsters up everyone else out there – primarily, Chap Peterson and whatever the new Senate district will be that will take half of Mark Herring’s district.  Chap does have some precincts up in Drainesville, so if Janet can take those off his hands – and they’re rich Republican precincts – that helps Chap out a bit.  And, if Janet needs to swing out to Loudoun or have Chap further down Rt. 50, that could help take out some Republican precincts in Chantilly that are in Dave Marsden’s district or currently in Herring’s.

    It’s all about unpacking some of the very Democratic districts in the inner suburbs to help out, as much as possible, the more westerly districts.  The same thing will most likely be done with the 8th and 11th congressional districts – Moran will give up some of his very blue Fairfax precincts and take on some of Connolly’s reddish precincts, while Connolly dumps the real Republican precincts out in Prince William into the new 10th or new 1st or whatever is drawn out there.

    To say that this is some evil plan to dilute the votes of the 20-somethings in the Ballston-Clarendon-Rosslyn corridor is false and stupid.  They’ll still have a very liberal Democrat representing them.

  • drobertson

    State senate district 32 (McLean, Great Falls, Reston, Herndon), the district that would be made more Democratic under this plan, voted for Deeds by a 6-point margin and for Obama by a 21-point margin (see here.). You have to figure that Creigh Deeds is the absolute bottom for any Democrat here, and the fact that even he won by six points says a lot. I’m okay with something like this when it is the difference between having one Democratic seat and one Republican seat vs two Democratic seats, but when the reward is so low I can’t justify something like this. If this results in two moderate Democrats instead of one progressive and one moderate Democrat, the net effect could be to shift the ideology of the senate to the right.