New Senate District Lines Stir Controversy. And A Discussion.ColumnsFeaturedPoliticsSouthsideSouthwest Virginia

“Bunkie! Where ya been man? I need to know about this trick the Republicans in the state senate pulled this week. What district will we be in now? Who will be our new senator? How about Chris and Rita, who live just across the line in Patrick County?”

Whoa. I had hardly stepped through the door before confronting that barrage of questions.

“Well, Clyde, if this thing passes the house, and is signed by the governor, and is approved by the justice department, you and I will tell Bill Stanley ‘happy trails’ and welcome Frank Ruff as our new prospective senator. Chris and Rita will also say goodbye to Mr. Stanley and get acquainted with another Bill. Bill Carrico from Grayson County.

“But let’s back up a minute. That lazy Rita here yet? I need some coffee.”

“I heard that Mr. Foley,” Rita said as she came out of the kitchen. “I’ll getcher damn coffee.”

As she set the cup in front of me she asked if I wanted her to ask Chris for breakfast.

“Yes, Rita sweetheart, please do.” I said in my sweetest voice. You never want a mad waitress, especially one with a boiling hot pot of coffee.

“Now Clyde, back to your questions. I ain’t no expert on this kind of thing, but it’s my understanding that this was all hammered out in a committee meeting back in November and has been in the senate since day one of this session. So for any Democrat to say it came as a shock and surprise is being just a bit disingenuous.

“I don’t know how this stuff works, but I do know they knew it was out there. Lurking maybe, but out there nevertheless.

“Personally, I don’t like the way it was done, waiting till the Democrats were standing with a short leg, but as a famous Democrat once said, ‘Politics ain’t beanbag.’ Would it have passed a 20/20 senate? Not likely, in spite of claims from the Democrats that they want ‘bi-partisanship’.

“I suspect that’s where the Governor’s opposition to it comes from as well. But it’s done now, and to be honest it results in a couple of things that can only be described as good things.

“Let’s face it. The current senate districts can only be described as a bi-partisan gerrymandered mess. Look at the current 20th as just one example. Nearly 150 miles from West to East, it starts off fairly narrow in the West, bulges up a bunch in the middle, narrows back down to mostly wrap around Danville, spreads up to capture Chatham, and then hugs the NC border for the rest of the way before ballooning back up again. It’s a real mess.

“The new proposed districts are more compact, more community relevant. Eliminating many split precincts in the process.And it creates a new minority-majority district. Who could argue with that?” I asked.

“Well then, what’s all the complaining about?” Clyde asked me when he brought more coffee, “I’ve heard one senator even said the Governor’s transportation plan is now dead on arrival. The Roanoke Times is whining as usual, but I repeat myself. The Times seems to have forgotten the complaints they lodged when the current lines were first drawn.”

I answered, “I think the major source of hurt feelings is in the way it was done. By waiting until the Democrats were one down they passed it without having to worry about Democrat opposition or a now unknown Lt. Governor.

“At any rate, it’s done. As my friend and Bearing Drift colleague Shaun Kenney said the other day; ‘The Democrats have argued rather well over process, and I could not agree more.’ He goes on to say that the house should must pass this thing. Then he adds this.

The House of Delegates has a responsibility to look at their own lines as if it was separate legislation, compartmentalize the House lines, and vote up HB 259. Why? Because that follows the process Democrats have held sacrosanct as of Monday, but did not follow during their reign of power in the 1990s and apparently are willing to discard in the near-future.

Shaun also lays out some interesting scenarios on how this will all play out.

“That seems to be where all the Democrat angst is coming from, while ignoring their own past history of sidestepping procedure. Including the 1998 shenanigans that re-elected Tom Moss as speaker.

“As usual Clyde, the breakfast was great. The coffee is getting better, and you and I tend to learn something everyday. See ya later.”

UPDATE: From Senator Steve Martin via Facebook;
“The redistrict bill has been on the calendar every day of this session. Passed by each day, unceremoniously. The democrats had to know something was amiss. We delayed the start of the session for one hour allowing time for all attendees to return from the festivities. All but one did return. We waited until the end of the legislative business day, providing even more time. DOJ said if we could creat an addition black district, we should. We did. The democrats could have, but do do so would have reguired them to follow the constitution dictate of compactness and like communities of interest. We unified towns, counties and precincts the democrats had split, making districts more compact and creating another black majority district. Sounds like a successfully effort. I would hate to be the democrat that went home to explain how they let education and transportation suffer because of a political loss. They had packed us. We undid their packing. They lost that battle. Now let’s handle the matters before us without concern for our political interests.”

@altonfoley | Facebook | Alton’s posts | E-mail me

  • JustinVC

    Steve Martin’s post on facebook is so disingenuous, you’d have to think it was a certain other Steve Martin. The Senate knew exactly where that one missing Senator was. And even beyond that, Mr. Martin’s actions are “the evidence of a conspiracy was there in front of the Dems, so they should have seen this coming.” Talk about blaming the victim. Even if the GOP Senators literally announced there conspiracy – “hey, if any Democrats ever leave Richmond, we’re going to really f*** them,” does that sound civil and fair to you?

    And “it’s done” is a wholly unconvincing argument. It would only be “done” if it was ratified by the house and signed by the Governor. Saying “it’s done” so the house and the coordinate entities must “pass the bill” ignores the point that nothing of substance is done until the coordinate entities act. The House and the Governor can choose not to act (or sign) until the bill is passed through legitimate means.

    • ADS

      Why is this way illegitimate? It may be impolitic, but it is most certainly not illegitimate.

    • http://www.facebook.com/alton.foley Alton Foley

      “It’s done” obviously refers to the senate action. I then go on to say it requires action by the house, the governor, and DOJ.
      It was passed through legitimate means, in a manner I’m not real proud of as I said, but it was legitimate.

      • JustinVC

        That’s the dumbest defense and weakest attempt to profit from a misdeed I’ve ever seen. I award you zero points and may God have mercy on your soul.
        Subject: [bearingdrift] Re: New Senate District Lines Stir Controversy. And A Discussion.

        • http://www.facebook.com/alton.foley Alton Foley

          Please show me where I defended it.

          • JustinVC

            You favorably quoted a colleague saying that now that it passed the senate, it should be enacted. Then you just declared the method as legitimate. You’re trying to sort the ends from the means, reaping the benefit while saying “well, I’d never” to the means. Weak sauce.

          • http://www.southsidecentral.com/ Bruce Hedrick

            Then I’ll ask you directly. What is your opinion on it?

          • http://www.facebook.com/alton.foley Alton Foley

            Did you even read it?

          • http://www.southsidecentral.com/ Bruce Hedrick

            Of course I did. I’m getting the Foley Shuffle out of it… hence the direct question.

          • http://www.facebook.com/alton.foley Alton Foley

            Go back and read it again. Then tell you tell me what my opinion is.

          • http://www.southsidecentral.com/ Bruce Hedrick

            Switch back!

            Now that you’re out of lifelines, you can either answer the question or pass.

          • http://www.southsidecentral.com/ Bruce Hedrick

            Time’s Up! You had a chance to articulate your position on this (which would have been a good thing to do since you wrote an folksy piece about it) but you didn’t. Nice.

  • Mike Barrett

    Mr. Foley makes it very clear that despite all these speeches by national republicans like Bobby Jindal and the newly reelected Chairman of the Republican Party, to the effect that we are a changed Party, that we want to do away with fringe issues that have divided the electorate and caused our defeat, it is clear by the actions of republicans in the House and the Senate in Virginia that the good old boy network, that believes in vote suppression believes in fringe issues that divide the electorate, are alive and well in the General Assembly of Virginia. I guess it is to much to give up a hand that won for so long just because the electorate is changing.

    • EricMcGrane

      oh, so its back to racism, huh? 1 trick pony.

    • http://www.brianschoeneman.org/ Brian W. Schoeneman

      That’s ridiculous, Mike. What happened here was nothing more than karma.

  • http://www.southsidecentral.com/ Bruce Hedrick

    Clyde: “Well gee, Bunkie, now that you explain it that way and told me not to worry about the just-as-gerrymandered new district that connects part of Danville to 30 miles outside of Williamsburg, I’m just fine with this plan. Just like Mr. Martin said, you people did it for the black man! It’s just too bad that you aren’t able to convince your governor and most Virginians of this.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.m.kilby Craig M Kilby

    Is the Steve Martin quote from the movie with Steve Martin, or a real live, breathing state Senator who can’t speak or write in English? How did this guy ever get elected? I hope he is not on the Educationifer Committer. (sic)

    • http://www.facebook.com/alton.foley Alton Foley

      Way to get right in that Facebook spirit there Craig.