Will House Dem Shenanigans Defeat Senate Dems This Fall?

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    Yesterday I blogged about the failure of most Democratic Delegates to stand up to the GOP gerrymandering that could put the House of Delegates firmly in Republican control for the next decade. I also noted what appears to be a quid pro quo between Republican Delegate Chris Jones and Democratic Delegate Lionell Spruill to silence the minority community in Suffolk and prevent the creation of a 13th minority-majority district in Virginia. Yesterday brought a few other developments, including the attempts by Delegate David Englin to defend the Republican gerrymandering’s treatment of Virginia’s minority community. I’ve challenged this claim but I have yet to receive any sort of response. Today we’re seeing more signs of how the failure to oppose the GOP gerrymandering will further undermine the state of the Democratic Party in Virginia.

    Lt. Governor Bill Bolling appears to be calling on the Governor to reject partisan redistricting plans and instead “strongly consider” the plans put forth by the independent commission. But the devil is in the detail:

    His call Thursday came with a twist: He said McDonnell should use his veto pen to scrap plans sent to him by the legislature and replace them with the maps designed by his commission without incumbent protection in mind. Bolling said McDonnell should wipe away any plan that doesn’t have “widespread bipartisan support.”

    That likely amounts to a call for McDonnell to ditch the Democrats’ plan for the Senate but accept the Republicans’ proposal for the House.

    That’s because the GOP-drawn map of new House of Delegates districts was adopted late Wednesday night by the House on a 86 to 8 vote. Most Democrats voted with Republicans in support of the plan, including Democrats in the legislative black caucus who have said they believe the plan protects majority-minority districts, as well as some Democrats in Northern Virginia who felt their districts had been treated well by Republican leaders.

    It’s likely to be a different story in the Senate Thursday, where Democrats are likely to amend the House plan and tack on Senate maps drawn up by Democratic leaders on a straight party line vote.

    “While the current House plan has received strong bipartisan support in committee and the full House with over 90 percent of the members voting for the plan, the Senate leadership’s plan has been derided as the epitome of partisan gerrymandering by Republicans and independent observers alike,” Bolling said.

    It seems like Delegates like David Englin have walked right into a Republican trap. The GOP gerrymandering of the House of Delegates, which does a disservice to Virginia’s minority community, is now on record for having “strong bipartisan support.”

    But the Senate Republicans have continued to fight tooth and nail against the Democratic redistricting plan for the State Senate. They haven’t given up. It now appears possible that Governor McDonnell could step in and offer changes to the Senate plan based on the independent commission. If you look at Bolling’s statements it’s unlikely the plan would be to entirely adopt the commission’s recommendations. Instead look for McDonnell to make suggestions that specifically target a handful of vulnerable Senate Democrats.

    Of course this plan could be turned back by the Senate Democrats if they stick together. But given the way in which the majority of the House Democrats abandoned their colleagues targeted by redistricting I worry that a few Senate Democrats might give into pressure from the Governor and the media. Only two Senate Democrats would have to flip in order to give the Governor a victory with Lt. Governor Bill Bolling breaking the tie. If the Governor targets some Democrats but helps others will our Democratic Senators hang together or hang separately?

    • Peter Rousselot

      Regretably, based on what we have seen so far, and given the absence of a strong, strategic, and consistenly-followed DPVA strategy, hanging separately looks increasingly more likely.