A redistricting brawl?


Say what you will about Virginia’s political class (after all, we certainly have), but it simply can’t be denied that they are, by and large, a pretty genial bunch. Sure, those chowderheads over in Prince William County enjoy fulminating about the imaginary tsunami of illegal immigrants flooding our commonwealth, and our increasingly unhinged Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli never met an anti-science witch hunt he didn’t like, but even these nutters seem like models of common sense and collegiality when compared to certain other intolerant state governments (cough—Arizona—cough).

Governor Bob McDonnell struck a mighty blow to the Assembly’s first redistricting proposal. Rather than swing at each other, however, the House and Senate opted to hug out a compromise.

In fact, no matter how contentious things might get in Richmond, it’s hard to imagine our General Assembly ever degenerating into a real knock-down, drag-out, Wisconsin-style fracas. Now, whether this is due to the inherent decency of Virginia’s elected officials, or simply the Assembly’s culture of good ol’ boy camaraderie, we won’t speculate (O.K., it’s the latter), but by now we’ve pretty much grown used to the capital’s complete lack of real combat or confrontation.

Which is why the events of the past few weeks have come as such a refreshing surprise. It all started with Governor Bob McDonnell’s unexpected veto of the Assembly’s redistricting plans. Now, the fact that the governor would object to the Dem-controlled Senate’s crazy gerrymandering (which pitched four Republicans into a bloody battle for two seats) came as no surprise. But his outright veto of both plans seems to have caught some Republicans napping. Even though the House had willingly coupled its plan with the Senate’s—passing both as a single bill—members still professed to be “surprised and disappointed” by McDonnell’s action, whining to the Washington Post that “a veto doesn’t seem very productive.”

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Majority Leader Dick Saslaw was getting all blustery about it, insisting that he wouldn’t “change one period or one comma” of his proposal. What’s more, if we’re to believe a recent report in the Washington Examiner, Saslaw was already working overtime to make sure that his preferred candidate, Arlington County Board Member Barbara Favola, secured the Democratic nomination for the not-yet-created 31st District Senate seat. Using such time-honored tactics as threatening phone calls and pressuring potential candidate’s business contacts, Saslaw comes across in the article as a sort of Boss Tweed on the Potomac, micro-managing every aspect of his vast political kingdom.

Which is why we’re so excited to finally see some old-school, bare-knuckle brawling as the unstoppable force of McDonnell’s veto pen meets the immovable object of Saslaw’s iron will. In fact, we’re absolutely certain that the ongoing clash over the Assembly’s redistricting plans will slowly metastasize into a legislative bloodbath of historic proportions.

What’s that? The House and Senate have already entered into bipartisan negotiations, worked out their differences, and approved a new compromise plan?

Dagnabbit! What is wrong with these people? Don’t they realize that some of us require constant infusions of political conflict to survive? At this rate, our dream of watching half the General Assembly flee the state on the Starlight Express, with Ken Cuccinelli and a rabid pack of bloodhounds in hot pursuit, seems very remote indeed.

Curse you, Virginia! Why does everyone here have to be so darn nice? You know, it’s times like this that we would seriously consider moving to Arizona, except that we hate the heat. And institutionalized racism. And being governed by certifiable lunatics.

But still, if that Kumbaya crew in Richmond doesn’t start stirring up some real trouble sometime soon, we might have to start vacationing in Wisconsin.