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As is almost always the case with a legislature divided, this year’s General Assembly redistricting process was agonizing and fraught with drama.
The legislature’s first stab at new election maps was vetoed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican. He said districts proposed for the state Senate did not pass constitutional muster for compactness and preserving the concept of one-man, one-vote. The plan, which the chamber’s Democratic majority drew, would have lumped four Republican senators into two districts.
McDonnell said little about about the portion of the bill that set new districts for the House of Delegates. That plan, drawn by the House Republican majority, squeezed several Democrats out of their districts, including Minority Leader Ward Armstrong, D-Henry.
House Republican responded to the governor’s overall veto by saying they would tweak their part of the redistricting plan. But Senate Democrats were defiant.
"We are not going to change one period or one comma," Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, declared on April 16. Saslaw said the Senate plan was constitutional and threatened to take the matter to court.
Now, fast forward to April 27, when legislators reached a tentative deal on a new plan leaving Democrats in control of the Senate, but unlike the original plan, weakening their chances of adding to the 22-18 majority.
Confronted with his original statement of stubbornness, Saslaw conceded that plenty of periods and commas had been changed in those two weeks and he’d changed his tune.
"I lied," he joked. "It was an unrealistic choice of words ... both sides gave a little."
Well, that makes our life easy. In the heat of battle, the ever-fiery Saslaw was obstinate and braced for tough negotiations. But in the end, cooler heads prevailed and he acknowledged that his remarks had been bombast.
Still, it represents a 180-degree reversal. Full Flop!
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "McDonell vetoes legislature’s redistricting plan," April 16, 2011.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Senate negotiators reach tentative deal on redistricting," April 28, 2011.
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