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There’s already a candidate for a new state house district in Arlington created by redistricting

Arlington officially has a new Virginia House of Delegates district that has local Democrats talking about who will run for the seat. One hat has already been tossed into the ring as of today.

The Supreme Court of Virginia last week unanimously accepted new district maps for Virginia’s House of Delegates, the state Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. For Arlington’s Richmond representation, the maps created an entirely new House District 2 encompassing Arlington’s Metro corridors, and redrew boundaries for the state Senate.

Last fall, a newly-created bipartisan group, the Virginia Redistricting Commission, began the decennial process of redrawing district maps. When the group couldn’t agree on new maps, the courts appointed two “special masters” to draw the final maps.

The maps take effect in the next general election to be held for each office, says the Virginia Public Access Project, which would be this year for U.S. Congress, 2023 for state Senate and this year or 2023 for the House of Delegates.

The new maps divide Arlington into House Districts 1, 2 and 3, which are mostly contained within county lines, save for part of District 3, which extends into part of the City of Alexandria.

House District 2 includes Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square, Ballston, Crystal City and parts of Pentagon City. Those neighborhoods currently are part of House District 49 (represented by Del. Alfonso Lopez), House District 48 (represented by Del. Rip Sullivan), or House District 47 (represented by Del. Patrick Hope).

Sullivan, a McLean resident, has been redrawn out of Arlington and into the new District 6, which encompasses McLean and Great Falls.

Hope and Lopez also reside outside House District 2, according to a VPAP analysis, and some local Democrats are already thinking about who will represent the district, located within a populous, heavily Democratic part of Arlington.

Former State Senate candidate Nicole Merlene officially threw her hat into the ring this morning (Monday).

“After decades of underrepresentation in the Virginia General Assembly, Arlington’s metro corridor now has the opportunity to have a voice,” Merlene, who also previously wrote an ARLnow opinion column, said in her campaign announcement.

If elected, she said she will “help expand middle class housing, require mental health parity in our healthcare system, expand childcare capacity and increase school funding, expand criminal justice reform to eradicate the disproportionate incarceration of Black people, and include environmental sustainability in all legislation.”

A former progressive Democrat candidate for the state house, Matt Rogers, told ARLnow he’s mulling a bid as well.

“Of course I’m considering it,” said Rogers, who was stopped short of running against Hope in last summer’s Democratic primary due to a paperwork snafu.

Chanda Choun, who lost his bid for a seat on the County Board during the June primary to County Board Member Takis Karantonis said he’s not considering this seat right now.

“My current plan is to go on active military duty this spring and deploy to the Middle East for an Army Reserve mission,” he said.

An oft-discussed potential pick for state legislature, County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol, was not available to comment. She is poised to become the next County Board Chair during the Board’s first meeting of 2022, rescheduled from today to tomorrow (Tuesday) due to snow.

With redistricting complete, the Arlington County Republican Committee says it intends to put forward qualified House candidates.

“We were delighted to see Republican candidates in each of Arlington’s House of Delegates districts in 2021, and we encourage former candidates and would-be candidates to get involved in their community and consider running for office,” said GOP Communications Director Matthew Hurtt.

Meanwhile, the new Senate map splits Arlington into two districts roughly following county boundaries: District 40, to be represented by incumbent Sen. Barbara Favola, includes all but the 22202 zip code, which now belongs to District 39.

Prior to the new map, Arlington was divided into three Senate districts: the 30th, represented by Adam Ebbin (D), the 31st, represented by Barbara Favola (D), and the 32nd, represented by Janet Howell (D).

“My new senate district will be completely contained within Arlington County,” Favola tells ARLnow. “I served on the Arlington County Board for 14 years and now represent large portions of Arlington in my current district, I understand the issues that Arlingtonians face and am honored to continue to represent them.”

Howell has been drawn out of Arlington and could have to run against Jennifer Boysko (D), whose 33rd district spans parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties, says Blue Virginia.

Howell and Boysko aren’t the only incumbents drawn into districts with other incumbents. Such pairings — a major criticism of the maps — will mean that Virginians can expect many incumbents facing off in primaries or retiring. Howell could be part of the predicted retirement wave, according to the Virginia Mercury.

Critics said that because the special masters didn’t pay attention to where incumbents reside, several were paired up or have weakened holds on their districts.

The special masters said competition among incumbents ought to be expected during redistricting and incumbency protection is one reason Virginians voted for a new process.

“Any redistricting map featuring this degree of geographic consolidation will almost certainly pair incumbents together,” they wrote. “In this respect, we consider the treatment of incumbents to be an example of the redistricting process working as intended.”

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