Senator McEachin vs Congressman Connolly: Who Will VA Democrats Back?

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    by Paul Goldman

    The behind-the-scenes battle over Congressional redistricting finally went public today, as Richmond-area State Senator McEachin endorsed the CD re-mapping proposal of his colleague, Senator Locke from Tidewater. Let’s cut through the 24/7 noise machine and get down to the coming face-off between McEachin and NOVA Congressman Gerry Connolly. They have opposite end games with no natural compromise. VA Democrats will have to choose either/or.

    Here’s why.

    The Republican-controlled House of Delegates wants a CD redistricting plan written to protect all the incumbents INCLUDING THE THREE DEMOCRATS. But the only Democratic incumbent truly vulnerable in 2012 to a Republican challenger is Congressman Gerry Connolly from NOVA.

    The GOP didn’t do this out of love of Gerry. Rather, they made a very practical decision based on this overriding concern: how to protect GOP Congressmen Randy Forbes, William Hurt and Morgan Griffith, all of whom believe themselves to be at risk should the GA stalemate and a federal judge  get to do Virginia’s CD redistricting.  

    Like all such calculated risks, perception rules. The only way to avoid a court-drawn plan is for the GA to pass a plan that is then signed by the Governor. Thus the quid pro quo: the GOP helps Gerry, and in turn, the Democratic Congressman gets the VA Senate, controlled by his party, to pass the GOP plan or something very similar.  I figure Connolly has an understanding with McDonnell.                        

    Don’t blame Connolly: He is doing what vulnerable members of Congress are doing all over the country this year. As Don Corleone would say, it’s not personal, just business. He is looking out for #1.

    Welcome to the human race.

    Enter now Senators McEachin and Locke:

     

    The Locke plan is far less friendly to several incumbents, especially Mr. Forbes and Mr. Hurt. It gives Democrats two possible pickups at least.  Democratic Rep. Connolly knows the House GOP will never support this plan. Thus, he sees deadlock ahead and a court-drawn CD plan which could put him  at risk.

    THE END GAME:

    Connolly therefore wants the GA to adopt the GOP plan or something similar because he knows the Governor will sign it. So look for this end game.

    The House and Senate reject each others CD plans, which then go to a Conference Committee to try and find a third alternative. The Democratic Senate has at least gone this far with McEachin/Locke. House Speaker Howell appoints three members of this “gang of six,” Senate Majority Leader Saslaw the other three.

    There is no requirement that the Conference Committee reach any kind of consensus. But if a majority of the House members and a majority of the Senate members agree to a unified plan, then the Conference Committee “report” is sent to the floor of each body for an up or down vote, no amendments allowed.

    We can presume the GOP side will not budge except for cosmetic changes.

    This means the three Senators will control the fate of the Committee. One will be a Republican who will side with the House GOP. This leaves the two Democratic Senators. If either Democratic Senator defects, a GOP plan wins.  

    It all comes down to the folks Senator Saslaw appoints. They must be on the P & E committee which has 9 Democratic members, and is chaired by Janet Howell. Traditionally, those appointed look to Saslaw for instructions.

    Additionally, with 2011 Senate elections looming, Senate Democrats are not going to reject the Conference Report, thereby opening themselves up to the charge of voting against a bipartisan plan because it wouldn’t elect enough Democrats.

    A Conference Committee deadlock is defensible, since both parties didn’t budge and the Locke plan is legally superior. Thus, it is a wash for the 2011 election cycle.

    So, who will Saslaw appoint to the Conference Committee? Connolly is from the same area of NOVA, putting Saslaw in a very tough position.

    Dick is a fair guy. But there is no way to be Solomon here.  

    • Dan Sullivan

      This will all be inside baseball.

    • Tom

      In any case, the 11th CD is overpopulated and I assume Locke’s plan wouldn’t push the 11th in the western part of PWC that is a bit more R-leaning and the plan has to compress Wolf’s district which is also overpopulated, but in any event my western part of PWC that is not D-leaning, remains in the 10th CD, so where does Locke’s plan do anything but help Gerry at least a little ? It would seem that just the action to compress the very overpopulated 11th CD will still improve Gerry’s chances next year, the only difference being one of degree of reduction in his vulnerability.

      In any event, unless a court-drawn plan would find some way to compress the 11th CD boundaries without a deliberate R-favoritism bias would seem to still favor Gerry to some degree seems like Gerry still comes out o.k., and Fimian is not likely to try for a 3rd consecutive loss next year, in a predominantly self-funded campaign.

      So, again the basic question: How does Locke’s plan harm Gerry, and to what extent ? My impression is that this is not about McEachin vs Gerry, but only about the degree of improvement Gerry will receive from one incumbent protection plan vs. another that’s not quite as Dem. incumbent friendly. Is this a correct observation, or maybe not ?

                           T.C.

    • FreeDem

      The problem that you leave out of this Paul is that you always want to be negotiating from a position of strength.

      Gerry Connolly may represent a district that has been very competitive in national elections in 2000 and 2004, but it swung solidly to Obama in 2008. It also strongly supported Kaine and Webb in their statewide runs in the last decade. Even Deeds’ 2009 performance at 46% was a significant improvement over his statewide performance!

      Given his roots in Fairfax County, Connolly should have been safe for his first reelection even with the difficult political environment. Instead, he delivered a very, very poorly run campaign. His entire apparatus seems disinclined to target traditionally Democratic voters, be they recent immigrants or young voters or progressives. He had to be bailed out in the 11th hour by the DCCC to save his seat by the narrowest of margins.

      You’re trying to defend Connolly for looking out for number 1, but if he actually were anything close to a competent campaigner he wouldn’t be so worried about his reelection prospects. Connolly is negotiating from a position of weakness, and the Republicans have him over a barrel because of it.

      Republicans are trying to shore up Frank Wolf, Robert (Not William!) Hurt, Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes, and probably Robb Wittman (longer term, he’s safe short term). In return the Democrats get what? One safer seat? In a seat that would be already safe for anyone else?

      That’s a pathetic bargain and Gerry should be ashamed of himself.

      Republicans have an interest in swapping Democrats out of Wolf’s seat into Connolly’s seat. They want to not only protect Wolf but set the district up to stay GOP when he retires in the next decade. A competent 11th District Congressman would stick to that deal without throwing the rest of Virginia under the bus. Instead he’s seeming to put his rubber stamp on a redistricting that also screws downstate Democrats.

    • NotJohnSMosby

      First, both the Senate and House plans use the sames lines in NoVA, at least in Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, etc.  The real changes in the plans are the Senate plan that unpacks the 3rd and makes the 2nd and 4th more competitive.  

      So, if either plan – Senate or House – is approved, or a compromise is reached, the lines for the 8th, 10th and 11th are the same.

      If it does to the courts, then all bets are off, and there’s a solid chance that a non-partisan plan is selected.  Every non-partisan/commission plan that I’ve seen shows the 11th going to an almost 100% Fairfax district, with the 10th becoming Prince William and Loudoun.  The 8th is pretty similar to the current House and Senate plans, with Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and the portions of Fairfax inside the Beltway and down through Mt. Vernon and Lee districts.  

      Under that scenario, the 11th will be more Democratic than it is today, although not as much as under the current House and Senate plans.  Gerry gets very strong under those plans.  He’s still strong with the non-partisan maps too, quite a bit more than the current makeup of the 11th.  

      The real changes, then, aren’t really for the 8th and 11th, its for a lot of the other CDs. I guarantee that a non-partisan plan would not stretch the 5th from the North Carolina border all the way to I-66, and it wouldn’t have the 3rd gerrymandered all up and down Hampton Roads and Richmond like it is now. Roanoke could end up 100% in the 9th, Norfolk could end up in the 2nd, big changes like that.

    • Not Barney Frank

      Both men are losers and lie to Virginia residents on a regular basis. Ask Congressman Connolly about all of the ‘green jobs” the stimulus plan was suppose to create.