Another Republican member is resigning from the Virginia Redistricting Commission. On Friday, State Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) announced his resignation; the commission will likely appoint a replacement from a list already put forward by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr. (R-James City.)
“I have enjoyed working with my colleagues on the Virginia Redistricting Commission for the past nine months. Approved by the voters last November, the bipartisan Commission is in its first year and I wish them well as they continue to navigate uncharted territory,” Newman said in a statement. “Given the newly published Commission meeting schedule and my ongoing professional obligations, I regret that I can no longer serve on this body.”
The redistricting commission is under deadline to complete maps, and has seven in-person meetings scheduled through the end of September alone. Newman’s announcement came the day after the commission received a first partial set of draft maps focused on Northern Virginia. The commission met virtually Thursday after canceling an in-person meeting scheduled earlier. On August 24, a commissioner notified the commission that they had tested positive for COVID-19, the day after meeting in-person.
Newman has been one of the voices arguing a pro-legislator position on the commission, where he has repeatedly warned of the necessity to protect incumbents so that the General Assembly will pass the commission’s proposed maps.
In earlier meetings, the commission passed citizen-led initiatives to start with blank maps over the objections of Newman and State Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax). But Newman and Barker had a victory when the commission agreed to allow map-drawers to consider incumbent addresses; Newman has said that would help make sure the maps would be approved by the General Assembly.
Democratic map-drawer Ken Strasma presented his team’s preliminary maps for the region, which is currently represented by Democrats. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, both the Republican and Democrat proposals create solidly blue districts. However, Democratic legislators from the area noted that even the maps from the Democratic team disadvantage incumbents by substantially shifting the districts and, in some cases, placing multiple incumbents in the same district. Strasma said his maps didn’t take incumbent addresses into account.
“There’s a lot of incumbent duplication that happens in this map,” Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) said.
“I appreciate the draft part of it because otherwise I would be submitting my resignation from the Senate today,” Barker said. “I sort of feel like no good deed goes unpunished, having spent six or seven years working on getting a constitutional amendment [for redistricting] passed, and this is the first map that comes out.”
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