Despite Virginia's rapidly changing demographics, the Virginia GOP has maintained a strangle hold on the House of Delegates in particular the old fashioned way - horrifically gerrymandered districts carefully crafted to insure GOP candidates are elected. Now, with a federal court ruling striking down the 3rd Congressional district for being racially gerrymandered, the congressional districts will need to be redrawn. Worse yet, there is the chance that the state districts might face a redrawing. The later is a terrifying prospect for the Virginia GOP and, if it occurs, could end GOP control. Here are highlights from the Richmond Times Dispatch:
[P]ublic bravado notwithstanding, Republicans are scared — very scared.
The calendar, the complexion of the electorate and the issues could align next year in the Democrats’ favor if a federal court throws out Republican-drawn House of Delegates districts as racial gerrymandering and orders them reconfigured, presumably to be more competitive. A bigger if: The court orders special elections for the House, concurrent with presidential balloting.
This is Speaker Bill Howell’s nightmare.
The advantages Republicans enjoy this legislative cycle will evaporate if they are forced to defend their House majority in elections in new districts held at the same time that Virginia’s Democratic reflex peaks: during statewide contests; specifically, for president. In national elections, turnout here is its highest — 70 percent or more.
When that occurs, the temperament of the electorate is more moderate, if not outright liberal. That’s why Barack Obama carried Virginia in 2008 — the first Democrat to win the state for the presidency since 1964. Obama won here again in 2012, affirming Virginia’s status as a competitive, nationally prized swing state.
All this is a long-winded way of saying that a strong Democratic presidential nominee could pull in a couple more Democratic congressmen or -women (a federal court, in a separate redistricting case, has ordered new lines, but Republicans are appealing) and a slew of Democratic delegates — should there be special elections for the legislature.
Here’s why “slew” may be the appropriate word: There are 27 Republican-held House districts that Obama won in 2012 or lost narrowly. Not all are in deep blue Northern Virginia. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Obama carried 16 Republican districts, in some, with approximately 60 percent of the vote. He lost the remaining 11 with no less than about 45 percent.
This speaks to the cynical marvel that is hyper-partisan redistricting.
It’s not something they [Republicans] discuss publicly. For a long time, their virtual silence on redistricting was guided by legal considerations. The less Republicans said on the record, the less that could used against them in the Alexandria courtroom, where three federal judges recently heard a Democratic lawsuit challenging the 2011 House of Delegates map.The judges won’t have a decision for at least a month. If it’s adverse to Republicans, they are certain to appeal. The next stop would be the U.S. Supreme Court, where their first plea in the congressional redistricting case was unsuccessful.