Home Virginia Politics Redistricting: Should Democrats Offer McDonnell a Deal?

Redistricting: Should Democrats Offer McDonnell a Deal?


( – promoted by lowkell)

by Paul Goldman

Iran-Contra was illegal, almost got Reagan impeached. But that was then: here in 2013, what about a Virginia ammo-for-hostages deal involving 20 VA Democratic Senators held hostage to the redistricting debate and a GOP governor looking for ammunition to claim his “transportation legacy”?

The key to being a good poker player is knowing how to win with a losing hand. The raw deal: Democrats are not in control of their own fate on the Senate redistricting power play.

The unexpected MLK Day power move clearly has rattled the House GOP Caucus and Republican Governor McDonnell. Neither the Speaker nor the Governor saw it coming. There is internal dissension on what should be done.

While the outcome of this intra-party battle isn’t clear, as well as the outcome of any legal issues should the matter wind up before the Justice Department or the Courts, this much is certain: Game theory says Democrats have significant risk of losing this latest redistricting battle.

The Democrats’ redistricting lawyers say not to worry: The GOP power play will be derailed should it ever have to pass the Voting Rights Act or a constitutional challenge. The Dems’ redistricting lawyers promised the same derailment for the 2012 GOP redistricting plan. They were wrong. Could this be Groundhog Day?

More to the point: Can Democrats afford to put all their eggs in the lawyer’s basket? My gut: This risk vs reward equation is a little too….risky. Is there a better play according to game theory? There is sure is in theory.                  

Governor McDonnell has been like Captain Ahab when it comes to pursuing a transportation “legacy.” The reason for chasing this White Whale beats me: but “Call me Ishmael”, it is the storyline.

As I read the State Senate, he can’t get his transportation plan passed by just relying on GOP votes. A couple of Senators are running for GOP statewide nominations and they are going to be afraid of voting for something nomination opponents can call a “tax increase.”  

Meaning: If this is the right read of the GOP, then McD’s hope for a legacy on transportation depends on Democratic votes in the Senate.

Over in the House, the situation is far more complex. But let’s assume the governor can get a plan through the House where he figures to get some Democratic votes right now. If McD has the votes in the House to pass a transportation plan, then it gets done if he can get enough Senate Democrats on board. In theory, all 20 Democrats could do it for him without a single GOP Senate since Bolling is for it: and can break a tie.

The question: Is there a transportation-for-redistricting deal that makes sense for the state and all those in the GA combined?

Game theory says: Yes there is. There are a few easy massages to the governor’s plan which he and his transportation allies should surely accept. It will still leave the plan way short of what Democrats want, indeed what it should be.

But in terms of practical politics, it would be a principled first step true, far bigger than likely to pass in the future. That is reality.

The governor will take hits on his right flank, Democrats on their left flank, even folks in the middle will not be happy in many quarters. It is still a heavy lift as they say.

Yet when you can avoid the real game theory risks – Democrats could be out of power in the Senate until after the 2031 redistricting (as I have discussed previously) meaning no hope of any check and balance on a GOP Governor in the future and no real GA leverage for future Democratic Governors – in exchange for a decent transportation first step, the result is not has some real merit for the public interest.

Ideal? Of course not. Will it make Democrats feel all that good? Of course not. But leadership is having foresight, everything is 20-20 in hindsight.

My bottom line: It is worth seeing if Governor McD is open to it. If Saslaw and McEachin have been feeling McDonnell out, then I say they are doing the right thing, and deserve credit for having the guts to make the hard call. They deserve our full support.

There is simply too much at stake for the next generation of Virginia politics to refuse to explore all the options even those which you don’t like.

The public interest is paramount here. The redistricting power-play puts too much at risk to leave it all to the lawyers.

Moreover, let’s face facts: The governor has to be trying to wheel and deal right now to seek how he can maximize the situation for his own legacy interest.

If he is only playing poker with one side, how is that, net-net, the best possible option given what is at stake? I have no illusions nor expectations. But as a general rule, being pro-active gives you the best options in the long run even if it doesn’t work out in any specific situation.  

  • they’ll just come back again and again and demand more. Don’t negotiate with terrorists, period. Plus, McDonnell’s transportation “plan” is godawful. So, the answer is NO(!!!), do not make a deal under these coercive/abusive conditions. To put it another way: No “Stockholm Syndrome,” thank you. 😉

  • FreeDem

    Is the deal “We’ll drop our horrible redistricting plan if you vote for our horrible transportation plan?”

    That’s absurd.

    We shouldn’t permanently abolish the state gas tax just to protect some marginal incumbents in the State Senate.  

  • Virginia Progressive Caucus Outlines Concerns on Transportation Funding Proposals

    Today leaders in the legislative Virginia Progressive Caucus spoke out on transportation funding proposals on a number of concerns that stem from the source of the new revenue and the missing pieces on spending priorities.

    Caucus Co-chairman, Delegate Patrick Hope (D-HD 47), raised several points.  “While much has been said about the amount of revenue that HB 2213/SB 1355 would generate, there has been little attention paid to requiring better accountability on how the funds improve mobility.  New funding needs to be accompanied by fundamental reform of VDOT and its project planning processes in order to solve the Commonwealth’s transportation crisis.”

    HB 2213/SB 1355 does advance several positive steps for transit and rail – most notably the establishment of a small dedicated, sustainable funding source for passenger rail that is required to sustain federal funding for intercity service.  However, since 2010, the General Assembly has accelerated appropriations of nearly $4 billion in funds – including $3 billion in bonded funds – to finance major transportation projects that often fail to address the core congestion problems of the state.  Northern Virginia alone needs at least $1 billion a year to address its dire transportation needs.

    Most prominent among misdirected priorities is Route 460 between Suffolk and Petersburg which would cost over $1.1 billion in taxpayer funds plus tolls.  The current Route 460 carries just 11,000 trips per day.  “The new US 460 Bypass is estimated to support  5500 trips per day.  “Traffic studies for a new Costco on Rt. 1 in Fairfax County show that the store would create as many trips as this 1.5 billion dollar road” said Delegate Scott Surovell.  Without assurances that substantial funding will go to local transportation projects, our communities’ needs will go unmet.

    Despite the major injection in revenue, little progress has been made to resolve long-term problems.  The General Assembly should review the return on investments in transportation to date.  Improved project selection, with greater transparency and General Assembly oversight, will avoid funds being wasted on projects that do little to alleviate congestion in Virginia’s most troubled transportation districts.

    Caucus member Delegate Scott Surovell (D-HD 44), cautions that HB 2313’s grab of existing General Fund resources could underfund current General Fund programs by $49 million in FY 2014 and as much as $283 million in FY 2018.  A better alternative, in addition to adjusting or indexing the gas tax to inflation, would include the elimination of reliance on funding from General Fund programs.  Delegate Surovell states, “Eliminating the statewide tax on gasoline is bad economics and bad transportation policy.  It cuts the sensible tie between transportation use and funding, forcing Virginians who drive less to subsidize those who drive more, hurting seniors and low-income individuals, carpoolers, transit users, and those who live closer to their jobs.”

    Senator Adam Ebbin, Caucus co-chair, adds, “We should retain and even increase the gas tax so we can share the costs of transportation improvements with vehicles passing through Virginia from out of state.  To force Virginians, even those who don’t drive, to cover the costs alone is shortsighted.  There is evidence from other states that taxpayers will likely only see a partial reduction in gas prices.” Estimates show that 30% of cars on interstates are from out of state and traveling through Virginia on our highways.

    “The Governor’s plan only funds about 10-15% of our present long-term transportation funding shortfall,” said Delegate Scott Surovell.

    The Virginia Progressive Caucus emphasizes that reforms and revenue are both needed to address Virginia’s serious transportation crisis.

  • HarperJ

    A transportation deal was the very first thing that came to mind when I heard about this chicanery.  Forget the legal challenges.  I don’t think the Dems need to trade anything because I don’t think McD has the stones to sign the bill.

    McDonnell has further aspirations, state wide and national.  If he signs onto the redistricting hoodwink, he will be just as culpable as those that planned it.

    Consider the optics here.   A civil rights leader travels to DC on MLK day to see Obama’s inauguration.  While that single member of the Senate is away, the entirely white Republican caucus rushes through a gerrymandering bill to the condemnation of nearly all.

    Successful attack ads have been made of far less substance.  If McD ever hopes to be elected to another statewide office, let alone national, he’ll run away from this at full speed.

    As for the Transportation plan, it’s a terrible, horrible, no good deal for everyone except upper-income Norther Virginians.  Yes, Northern Virginia needs money to build more roads, but NVA voters have refused to self-fund this much-needed improvement.  They want the rest of the state to pay for their roads, it’s nuts.  By raising sales tax, it burden will be placed on the middle class and poor.

    Placing NVA road improvements on the backs of the middle class and poor is a terrible precedent.  If McD wants to fund transportation, peg the gas tax to inflation then increase the gas tax in the areas the need roads.  Removing a roughly 5% tax on gas to replace it with a 6% tax on everything else is a terribly regressive plan that could only have been devised by Republicans.

    What should the Dems do in response to gerrymandering?  Senate Democrats need to shut down the Senate until this bill is quashed.  No business! At all! Until redistricting is gone.