Press Club

Redistricting Would Push Arlington Senate District into Loudoun

If legislators approve the new state Senate districts drawn up by Senate Democrats, Arlington County voters will soon share a state Senator with Loudoun County.

The state House and Senate redistricting plans were unveiled last night and, unsurprisingly, the new district boundaries would give a boost to the majority party in each chamber. The Democratic-controlled state Senate plan would force two pairs of Republican senators to run against each other, while the Republican-controlled House plan moves the districts of three Democratic delegates, including that of House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong.

For Arlington, the state Senate plan will dilute Arlington’s influence in one district, the 31st, while the county picks up a third district, the 32nd. Arlington will lose some territory from the 30th district, which is subject to a three-way Democratic primary battle.

The 31st district — held by the retiring Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple — currently consists of most of North Arlington, Falls Church and a slim part of eastern Fairfax County. The new, gerrymandered district will run from the Pentagon and Columbia Pike to the south, through the eastern half of North Arlington, through Great Falls, and up to some Loudoun County neighborhoods near the Potomac River.

Analysis on the Blue Virginia web site suggests that Arlington may retain the majority of the district’s population, but the sprawling district could present some logistical problems for County Board member Barbara Favola, who is running for the 31st district seat. Del. Patrick Hope is also considering a run for the Democratic 31st district nomination.

The 32nd district, currently a Fairfax and Loudoun County district represented by Democratic state Sen. Janet Howell, will shift into northwestern Arlington County. It will run through Tyson’s Corner, all the way west to Reston and part of Chantilly. Arlington neighborhoods like Westover, Yorktown and East Falls Church would have to compete with the interests of Fairfax County residents — which could get interesting if the topic of I-66 widening is ever brought up.

The Senate redistricting plan has already been assailed by former Arlington County Democratic Committee chair Peter Rousselot, who is calling it “the product of top down, hierarchical, dictatorial planning designed to protect individual incumbent Democratic Senators behind a supposed ‘firewall’ to preserve a Democratic majority in the Virginia State Senate.”

“This ‘planning’ is bad policy and bad politics,” Rousselot writes, to the chagrin of the plan’s Democratic drafters. “The general public and editorial writers across the Commonwealth have the common sense to realize that this process is decidedly un-democratic.”

Ben Tribbett, who has said he may be interested in running for the 31st district state Senate seat, is also ripping the plan. However, Tribbett is criticizing it for not doing enough to protect safe Democratic districts.

“On paper they improve Democratic performance in some swing districts, but do so by lowering it in safer districts,” Tribbett writes. “In the lowest turnout elections, Republicans can come dangerously close to Democrats even in places like Alexandria and Arlington with the right candidates.”

Additional analysis of Arlington’s reconfigured House of Delegates districts is available on Blue Virginia.

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