It would also make the state’s 40 Senate districts more competitive in elections, including this November’s.
McDonnell (R) said that the changes satisfied his concerns and that he would sign the bill into law.
“It is a great improvement over the previous plan that I vetoed,” McDonnell said in a statement.
Democrats said they think that the new proposal gives them the opportunity to retain their slim 22 to 18 Senate majority. “Each side wanted more, and we had to settle halfway,” said Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax). “They gave up some, we gave up some. That’s what it’s all about. . . . Both sides did okay.”
Legislative action was repeatedly delayed as negotiations slipped into Thursday evening as Republican senators negotiated among themselves over whether to support a plan hammered out by General Assembly leaders. In the end, lawmakers voted 32 to 5 to adopt the proposal, but Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (James City) said Republicans were hardly pleased with the results.
“I’m going to vote for this plan — not because I embrace it with any degree of affection,” he said.
The revised map brings the 140 districts of the state Senate and Republican-held House of Delegates into alignment with population shifts detailed in the 2010 Census. Northern Virginia would gain a new Senate seat and three new delegates under the proposal.
In the House, delegates voted 80 to 9 for a redrawn map of its 100 districts after making a handful of small changes from its original plan by unsplitting precincts in Norfolk and the Richmond area.
The Senate deal marked a remarkable turnaround for the chamber’s majority Democrats, who had belligerently pledged after McDonnell’s veto not to change a comma of their plan, daring the governor to reject the proposal again and toss a stalemated redistricting to the courts.
“The only thing he’s going to accept is absolute surrender on the part of the Democrats of the Senate of Virginia — and he’s not going to get it,” Saslaw said of McDonnell the day the veto was announced.
But senators became convinced that a court case could result in a map they would like less than one negotiated with Republicans. A plodding court case also would have left legislators in limbo, without established districts and unable to start campaigning for the November elections.
“One man’s cave-in is another man’s compromise,” said Sen. J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax).
Saslaw, known for his often-blunt demeanor, suggested that his uncompromising tone had partly been a negotiating tool to win the best deal. But he also said the public suggestion that Democrats would never make a deal had likely been unwise.