Republican operatives in Washington said Thursday that they believed the Virginia GOP would delay the conclusion of congressional redistricting to see whether the party can win back control of the state Senate in November — an idea immediately nixed by a leading Republican state legislator in Richmond.
Republican State Leadership Committee President Chris Jankowski and Republican National Committee Redistricting Director Tom Hofeller said in an interview Thursday that Virginia Republicans would hold off drawing new boundaries for Virginia’s 11 Congressional seats until after November.
The GOP hopes then to win back the state Senate from Democrats, who hold a narrow 22 to 18 majority in the chamber. With the Senate in Republican hands — along with the House of Delegates and the governor’s mansion — the GOP would have total control over the process.
“Essentially they’ve decided to stand off and wait and see if the Democrats hold the Senate,” Jankowski said.
In an interview, Jankowski indicated a delay was “definitely” the GOP plan — and Hofeller agreed.
(Update, 4:45 p.m.: In a follow-up e-mail, Jankowski indicated that, in fact, a delay is no longer the Republican strategy: “While that strategy was discussed, it would appear to run afoul of the state Constitution. While I do believe there will be a standoff, I also believe they will get something passed this year.” His follow-up was prompted by comments from Del. Bill Janis (R-Goochland), who is sponsoring a bill containing a proposed map drawn with input from the state’s 11 incumbent congressmen.)
Janis was adamant that Republicans continue to plan a summertime conclusion to the process.
“The plan is to get this done before the end of July,” he said.
Janis said he has not spoken to Jankowksi or Hofeller about redistricting timing, but said there is no appetite in Richmond for a delay. After all, Republicans could win the Senate in November. But Democrats could also hold on.
“That might make them more intransigent than they are now,” he said.
The Senate is pushing a competing plan that would create a new “minority influence” district with a significant number of black voters, along with a district in which African Americans are in the majority. Virginia’s current congressional map has one majority-minority district, represented by Rep. Bobby Scott (D).
The General Assembly will return to Richmond on June 9 to continue the redistricting process. Delegates and senators have said they expect to adopt their divergent plans and then appoint a conference committee to work out differences between the two proposals.
“We’re going to come back on the 9th, and the plans will go into conference,” said Janis, who will be one of the House’s three conferees. “At the end of the day, I’m quite confident we’ll get a plan passed in early July that will look very much like the legislation that passed the House.”
Plus, the Virginia Constitution requires that the General Assembly complete redistricting in 2011, limiting the time available for delay, Janis said.
“It’s pretty clear we have to get this done in 2011,” he said.
This post has been updated since it was first published.