The Virginia General Assembly today moved a step closer toward enacting a congressional redistricting plan that would make only minor changes in Northern Virginia's two congressional districts and reject partisan boundary shifts that had been sought by some Democratic members.
In a vote of 25 to 11, the Virginia Senate approved a redistricting plan that would maintain current boundaries for Republican Rep. Frank Wolf's 10th District, and extend Republican Rep. Stanford Parris' 8th District farther south into Stafford County.
That plan appears to have more support than a plan drafted by junior House Democrats that would split the Washington suburbs in an effort to create a safe Democratic district inside the Capital Beltway. That plan, called the "Jefferson Plan" in honor of Democratic Party founder Thomas Jefferson, was hurriedly redrafted today and renamed the "Unity Plan," but it, too, appeared to be too controversial to win approval during a special legislative session that some lawmakers are hoping will end tomorrow.
Speaking after a day of light-hearted wrangling and bickering, Del. John Gray (D-Hampton), chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, said the Senate version would form the basis for his panel's deliberations tommorrow.
He said the "Unity Plan" is not likely to get a committee hearing despite its endorsement this afternoon by a House Democratic caucus. "We all know what it is," Gray said. "We know what the ideas are. We don't need to talk about it again."
Under the Senate plan, all of Stafford County and 93,000 residents of eastern Prince William County would be placed in Parris' 8th District, while some 73,000 residents of western Prince William County would be shifted to Rep. Kenneth Robinson's 7th District.
Parris said today he doesn't object to the Senate plan, even though it "sounds like the plan [former Democratic Rep. Herbert E.] Harris went down there with. . ."
Harris is the man Parris defeated last November, and one of his former aids was instrumental in drawing up the earlier plans for the inner-beltway district.
One reason the so-called Unity Plan was given little chance for passage was that it offended some senior Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Hunter B. Andrews of Hampton, head of that chamber's elections committee, had grumbled that the plan diluted congressional representation for Tidewater. "It doesn't look very good to me," Andrews said.