An earlier court ruling said the district had been gerrymandered to pack in African American voters and make adjoining districts easier for white candidates.
The panel’s move upends the voting boundaries of millions of Virginians from Hampton Roads to the capital. The 3rd District, now held by Rep. Robert C. Scott (D), an African American, will include Tidewater cities.
Richmond and Petersburg move from the Scott’s 3rd District to the 4th District now held by Forbes, who is white.
The 1st and 7th Districts are also affected. In the 7th, Brat, who is white, loses his reliable, conservative base of Hanover County and picks up parts of the western Richmond suburbs formerly held by Forbes.
The panel’s decision, if it survives court challenges, is bad news for both Forbes and Brat, but for different reasons.
Forbes’s district covers a large swath of conservative farmland and Suffolk and Chesapeake, which are heavily dependent on federal, especially military, spending. Now he will have to deal with voters from Richmond, which is about half African American and Petersburg, which is mostly so.
Democrats already are showing interest in running in the 4th District. One is state Sen. A. Donald McEachin, an African American, and Del. Jennifer L. McClellan. Forbes has been strangely quiet about the turn of events.
There’s the potential that Brat could be upset as well. The hard-right politician raced to victory in 2014 when he defeated then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who represented the issues of the power elite in the Richmond area. Brat got national headlines by tapping anti-Washington, tea party populists, many of whom were concentrated in Hanover County.
With Hanover removed from the district, Brat will have a tougher time if Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade decides to run against Brat as a Republican. Wade is popular, professes more moderate conservative views and has ties to Cantor’s powerful supporters, who are still stung by Brat’s victory.
The panel’s decision could give Democrats one more seat in the Virginia congressional delegation, which now has eight Republicans and three Democrats.
Peter Galuszka is a regular contributor to All Opinions Are Local. Would you like to contribute? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.