A federal three-judge panel, on a 2-1 vote, yesterday declared the 3rd Congressional District of Virginia (Rep. Bobby Scott-D) unconstitutional because of racial gerrymander. This means a partial re-draw will commence at some point after the 2014 election and before the 2016 nomination cycle begins.
The 3rd District begins in downtown Richmond, travels to Petersburg, comes back toward the James River, and then juts south to annex most of the cities of North Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth, and downtown Norfolk. The plaintiffs’ argument was basically that the Republican-dominated legislature drew this seat to pack as many African American Democratic voters as possible into this one district.
Because the specific communities were added to make the seat 56.9 percent black, the plaintiffs claimed the territory was “packed” for political reasons. They said the final racial composition figures diluted the regional African-American vote by drawing one such strong black district. Many have argued that this area could sustain two districts where African-American influence is heightened. The Republican defendants argued they were not retrogressing the district as dictated by the Voting Rights Act.
Now responsibility for action returns to the Virginia state officials. It is unlikely the Commonwealth will appeal the ruling because Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring are both Democrats. Since the decision is likely to help their party, little political gain exists for them to ask the US Supreme Court to review the case.
If this proves true, then the Republican legislature will be tasked with re-drawing the region under the guidelines that the panel, pertaining to past case law and rulings, is laying forth. McAuliffe, as governor now instead of Republican Bob McDonnell when the original districts were enacted in 2011, of course has veto power meaning that a compromise will have to be reached or both sides risk defaulting to a court-drawn map. So more drama awaits.
Likely, the districts most affected by changing the 3rd will be the Virginia Beach-anchored 2nd District (Rep. Scott Rigell-R) and the 4th CD (Rep. Randy Forbes-R), located to the south and west of VA-3. The 1st District (Rep. Rob Wittman-R) could also be tangentially touched.
Since the current map favors the Republicans 8-3 from a place where their party hasn’t fared particularly well in recent statewide campaigns, the odds favor Democrats making at least an incremental gain from this new court-mandated adjustment process.
It’s rare when a poll showing an incumbent trailing in a primary is taken as good news, but for embattled Rep. Vance McAllister (R) that’s exactly the proper take.
Alabama-based Cygnal Polling surveyed 504 likely Louisiana 5th Congressional District voters over the Sept. 22-24 period and found Monroe Democratic Mayor Jamie Mayo leading the pack with 19 percent of the vote. He is closely followed by Rep. McAllister attracting 17 percent, Zach Dasher (R), a relative of the Robertson Duck Dynasty clan, at 13 percent, and physician Ralph Abraham (R) dropping to 11 percent. Before, Abraham looked to be McAllister’s toughest Republican opponent.
Obviously, an incumbent posting only 17 percent support in any poll reveals major weakness, something to be expected from a scandal-tainted politician. This scenario, where McAllister sneaks into the second run-off position against a Democrat in a heavily Republican district, is the one likely way in which the congressman can win a second term. In a one-on-one run-off against a member of the opposite party, McAllister’s chances of finishing first vastly improve. Should he fall into an isolated contest with one of the other Republican candidates, McAllister would almost assuredly be unseated.
The Louisiana primary is held concurrently with the general election. If no candidate secures a majority of the vote, a virtual certainty in this 5th District candidate configuration, the top two finishers regardless of political party affiliation will advance to a December 6th run-off election.