Planned action Thursday morning in the state Senate to approve a new redistricting plan for the chamber’s 40 seats has been delayed as debate drags among Republicans over whether to accept a deal worked out by top senators of both parties.
A legislative committee meeting that was supposed to be held at 11 a.m. was pushed back to noon, and then delayed again to 2 p.m., as Republicans held a marathon caucus meeting.
Senators in both parties had said Wednesday that a bipartisan group working to come up with a compromise map had reached tentative agreement.
Democrats said their 22-member caucus had signed off, but they awaited word from Republicans about their 18 members. Republicans met Wednesday night and again starting shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday to discuss the deal.
Several GOP senators said Thursday that a deal is near.
“We’re this close,”said Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester), holding her thumb and forefinger close together. She said Republicans had proposed one change to the map and awaited word from Democrats on whether they could sign off.
“All we need is that one change, and I think we would all be board,” she said.
Sen. Harry Blevins (R-Chesapeake) said Republicans would like to see changes to districts in Southwest that would collapse the seats of Sen. Ralph Smith (R-Roanoke) and Sen. Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg).
Blevins said Republicans were satisfied with other parts of the map, including a compromise on the troubling Hampton Roads area, which will lose a Senate seat due to population loss.
The compromise map will retain two Republican seats in the Virginia Beach area — a key point of contention in a map passed this month with only Democratic support and vetoed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).
It will instead place Blevins and Sen. Fred Quayle (R-Chesapeake) in the same district. Blevins said he spoke Thursday morning to Quayle, who recently underwent surgery, and that Quayle had offered his support to Blevins in the district — suggesting that Quayle may be retiring.
“He said he would be very helpful to me,” Blevins said.
He said he thinks Republicans will ultimately sign off on the plan.
“I think they all realize this is better than anything else we can do,” he said. “What are the options? Accept it. Or stay mad.”