Brent Finnegan -- April 17th, 2011
Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, is among the reddest Republican strongholds in the Commonwealth. If Democrats in the Virginia Senate have their way in the redistricting process, it could become even redder.
Republican Bob Goodlatte has held office in the 6th CD since he was first elected in 1993. But Senate leaders want to change the boundaries of the 9th CD, which covers most of southwestern Virginia. Republican Morgan Griffith was voted into office in the 9th during the GOP sweep last November, ousting Democratic Party Rep. Rick Boucher, who had previously held the office since 1983.
At issue is whether the Democratic-leaning city of Roanoke should remain in the 6th district, or be redrawn into the 9th. The plan drawn up by the House of Delegates keeps Roanoke in the 6th. The Senate plan moves Roanoke into the 9th, making up for the loss by including more rural areas in the 6th.
From a vote-counting standpoint, what the Democrats are doing here is giving up on the 6th District — which has been pretty reliably in Republican hands since 1952, with the exception of the Jim Olin interregnum in the ’80s and early ’90s. Instead, they’re banking on trying to win back the 9th — by moving the Democratic stronghold of Roanoke into that district.
Joe Fitzgerald, 1st Vice Chair of the Virginia Sixth District Democratic Committee, wrote to me in an email that “the Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth have to grow geographically and most of the places they can go are majority Republican. The question for the Sixth is always going to be just how Republican we wind up. With the state trending blue, a more Republican Sixth means a less Republican Ninth or Fifth.”
The Roanoke Times reported last Wednesday:
Republican Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke County has held the 6th District seat in Congress for 18 years. Republican Morgan Griffith of Salem won the 9th District seat last year. Both redistricting plans would keep the congressmen in separate districts.
Both Goodlatte and Griffith have said Roanoke should remain in the 6th District.
Griffith said he appreciated that Senate Democrats put Salem in the 9th District.
Under the House plan, the 6th District would extend from Roanoke County to the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley. Under the Senate plan, the district would meander from Floyd County through the Roanoke Valley and include the Alleghany Highlands and most of the Shenandoah Valley.
How would this affect Harrisonburg and Rockingham County voters? Depending on how you look at it, it might not. But if the Senate plan goes into effect, it would seem even more implausible that a Democratic challenger would be able to unseat Goodlatte.
At this point, the current Senate version seems nonviable. On Friday Gov. Bob McDonnell vetoed the state legislative redistricting plan. The Washington Post reported:
Leaders in the Senate and the Republican-controlled House wanted their bills signed into law — and in the Senate, legislators refused to pass a congressional map until they saw how he acted on state legislative maps first.