Roanoke City: Available for Adoption


    Now that Dick Saslaw has executed his preordained cave-in to the governor who dared to use his veto pen following the GOP in the House of Delegates snookering the Dems there into a “bipartisan” vote on their redistricting plan, those of us in Roanoke still don’t know where we will land in congressional redistricting. As expected, the Republicans in the House of Delegates want to keep Roanoke, a Democratic stronghold of 97,000 people, in the 6th District, which is the reddest of Virginia’s red districts. That way, Augusta and Rockingham counties can continue to more than offset Roanoke’s votes.

    The State Senate’s original congressional plan put the city of Roanoke in the 9th District. I’m sure the rationale there is that the 9th District is far more likely to flip than the 6th, assuming that the Democrats can field a strong candidate against Morgan Griffith, whose home under both proposed plans is finally in the district he represents in Congress. The dilemma for Roanokers is this: Do we have more in common with the Shenandoah Valley or with the New River Valley, with Harrisonburg or with Blacksburg?

    Republicans wanted to be sure to put Griffith’s home base of Salem in the 9th. Democrats evidently decided they would go along with that but, in return, also give Mrogan an area guaranteed to vote Democratic in 2012. According to the Roanoke Times, in 2008 President Obama carried Roanoke by 9,540 votes. In contrast, Griffith carried the entire 9th in 2010 by 8,963 votes.

    So, where does the orphaned Roanoke belong? I would opt for the 9th. However, there are those who say, “But, we have nothing in common with Gate City, Wise, or Bristol.” Well, who does? Don’t those folks actually have more in common with east Kentucky and east Tennessee than with Roanoke? For years, Roanoke has sold itself as the city of Southwest Virginia. Putting us in the 9th simply validates that truism.

    • sallybee

      …that as Roanoke and Blacksburg have become closer economically, culturally, and educationally it would seem logical to me (from nearby Franklin County) that Roanoke should be in the 9th.

    • Paba

      How about this rationale?

      Roanoke and Salem belong in the same district because they’re essentially twin cities. To separate them is a bald act of politics.

      Morgan needs to shut up and takes the city he’s spotted in much more often than in the rest of SW Virginia (Roanoke) in his district. If Bob Goodlatte doesn’t agree, then the two of them can run against each other next time in the 6th, or Morgan can keep representing a place he doesn’t live in.

    • FreeDem

      But I grew up in the County, so most of the people I knew growing up would have been much happier splitting the City off from Virginia, let alone a political district.

      Until we take back West Virginia the 9th district has only a few directions to go for more population. Most people focus on going up 81 toward Roanoke or east along 58 toward Martinsville. This is the approach taken by the independent commission, which argued that both pathways had their own merits and disadvantages but they ultimately recommended Martinsville.

      Personally, I think that the current outcome of splitting Salem and Roanoke, and keeping Henry split with some of Martinsville in the 9th but parts of Henry still in the 5th is a really bad approach. Pick one direction and go all out, don’t try to half-ass both directions.

      I think that the Southside community, particularly Danville, is really opposed to the idea of Martinsville being moved out of the 5th. I am very sympathetic to this argument. The two cities are really in the same boat economically as Southside tries to rebuild itself. I think there’s a growing but still unspoken understanding in Southside that the rural communities are never going to bounce back. The only hope is to focus on more densely populated areas like Martinsville, Danville, and to a lesser extent South Boston.

      If keeping Roanoke in the 6th means putting Martinsville in the 9th I think the argument is in favor of the other option of Roanoke in the 9th and Martinsville in the 5th.

      Left unsaid in all of this is a proposal that was originally floated in 2000 as a threat to Virgil Goode if he didn’t switch parties: moving Franklin County into the 9th. At the time this would have opened up the 5th to a Republican and put both Goode and Boucher into a fight for survival. Today this doesn’t entirely make sense when you think about Franklin County’s suburbs of Roanoke and Smith Mountain Lake Community, but it does for parts like Rocky Mount, Ferrum and the ties to Floyd and the rest of Southwest Virginia through the Crooked Road. This alone isn’t really enough to meet the 9th’s need to grow, but it’s worth keeping in mind.