Losing ground

Published 10:17 pm Thursday, March 31, 2011

Redistrict: Voters in Suffolk could have some new choices in November if a redistricting map that has been proposed by a General Assembly committee is accepted without changes.

Redistricting could shuffle area politics

The General Assembly’s redistricting recommendations were released this week, and some Senate Republicans — Suffolk’s Fred Quayle among them — aren’t too happy about them.

“I’m not terribly excited about it,” Quayle said. “They have taken away from me about half of the city of Suffolk, or about half of that part I represent at the current time.”

In addition, the proposal takes away from Quayle more than half of Isle of Wight County, as well as Surry, Prince George and Hopewell.

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But for Quayle, the biggest change is that he would represent a whole new demographic if the plan passes — about 86,000 residents of Virginia Beach.

“I think the Republicans in the Senate will contest it,” said Quayle, who said the plan is an example of political gerrymandering. “Some other members of the Republican Caucus are unhappy with the way it has been divided up.”

Also under the new Senate plan, Senator Thomas K. Norment — who lives in Williamsburg — would represent a portion of North Suffolk.

The plan could be voted on as early as next week, when the General Assembly reconvenes for a veto session and to consider the redistricting plan. It then would have to receive approval from Gov. Bob McDonnell and the U.S. Department of Justice before it would go into effect.

“There are some who know more about redistricting than I do who seem to think the plan might not pass muster with the Justice Department,” Quayle said. Even so, he said his new district should be one he would find “relatively friendly, but not any slam dunk.”

The clock is ticking on approval of the plan, as General Assembly elections are set for Nov. 8 and a lot of planning for the election has to happen before then.

Some big changes for Suffolk’s representation in the House of Delegates could also be in store. Delegates Chris Jones and Lionell Spruill Sr., who already represent parts of Suffolk, would see their districts shift around.

But most significantly, Delegate William K. Barlow, who currently represents parts of Isle of Wight County, Southampton, Surry, Franklin and more, would obtain a chunk of Suffolk that includes the villages of Holland and Whaleyville.

From a statewide perspective, Hampton Roads — and the rest of the state — will be losing even more voting power to the quickly-growing Northern Virginia region. Even though Suffolk’s growth exploded more than 32 percent in the past decade, the rest of the area did not keep up with Northern Virginia.

“While we have had growth in this area, it has not nearly kept pace with the growth across the state,” Quayle said. “We ended up with districts here locally that were short.”

To view an interactive map of the current House and Senate districts as well as the proposed districts, visit redistricting.dls.virginia.gov.