The latest redistrict map: Petersburg, Hopewell, part of Prince George gets new state senator
The process is far from over, but the newest plan is the second one to pair incumbent Joe Morrissey with fellow Democrat Jennifer McClellan, this time in a district not including Petersburg area
RICHMOND — The state Redistricting Commission will get its first look at an updated state Senate plan that removes some pairing of incumbents, but also, if approved, could mean Petersburg and Hopewell could be shopping for a new state senator.
According to the proposal posted on the nonprofit, nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project website, Petersburg and Hopewell, along with more than 18,000 Prince George residents, would be at the southernmost end of a new 26th Senate District that snakes its way around Colonial Heights through southeastern and central Chesterfield County into Richmond. The VPAP analysis points out that there are no sitting Senate incumbents living in that proposed district.
Approximately 7,000 voters now residing in the current 16th Senate District — including the district's incumbent, Sen. Joe Morrissey — would be shifted into a new 27th Senate District that stretches from Richmond into Henrico and Charles City counties. It also pairs Morrissey with fellow Democratic Sen. Jennifer McClellan, a former gubernatorial candidate.
The new 26th District also pulls in almost 19,500 residents of the current 11th Senate District. It would be considered a safe Democratic district, as VPAP notes that three out of every four voters in that new map voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Fifty percent of the 26th would be Black residents, 28% White and 22% other minorities.
Morrissey, a former Richmond prosecutor and delegate, easily won the 16th Senate seat two years ago, overwhelming Democratic incumbent Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg in the primary and then cruising over independent candidate Waylin Ross of Petersburg in the November election.
It's the second of three Senate remapping plans that has Morrissey pitted against McClellan. The Democratic plan also puts the two of them in the same district but includes Petersburg and Hopewell. The Republican plan has Morrissey by himself in a district that also keeps Petersburg and Hopewell.
The new plan also takes all of Dinwiddie County out of the 16th District and into a new 25th Senate District that also includes the rest of Prince George County and extends to the state line. The incumbent in that district is GOP. Sen. Frank Ruff of Mecklenburg County, and the seat would be considered in safe Republican territory.
Another Republican incumbent, Sen. Amanda Chase of the 11th District, would also be safe in the new 27th Senate District that would cut out Amelia County, and keep most of Chesterfield and all of Colonial Heights. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump easily carried those areas. Also, 67% of that district would be made up of White residents.
In one of the previously submitted plans, Chase was paired with Democratic Sen, Ghazala Hashmi.
The plan introduced Monday is the latest of several proposals under consideration by the Virginia Redistricting Commission. That panel has until Oct. 10 to draw up a plan for all 140 General Assembly districts and 11 congressional districts that will be voted up or down as a whole by the 2022 General Assembly.
The redistricting commission consists of 16 members — eight from the legislature and eight citizen appointees. The legislative members are equally divided, four each from the House of Delegates and the Senate.
A supermajority 12 of the 16 commission members, six of the legislators and six of the citizens, must vote "yes" in order for a map plan to advance to final approval by the 2022 General Assembly. That supermajority has a further stipulation in that three of the four House members must vote affirmatively for the House plan, and three of the four Senate members must favor the Senate plan. There are no such stipulations placed on the citizen appointees.
Should the Assembly not come to an agreement, then it would be up to the courts to decide the lines, much like a federal court did in adjusting the boundaries for the districts in the 2019 House elections.
Veteran journalist Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is the regional daily news coach for the USA TODAY Network Southeast Region's Unified Central group, which includes Virginia, West Virginia and portions of North Carolina. He is based at The Progress-Index in Petersburg, Virginia. Contact Bill at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.