Take a look at Virginia’s congressional delegation and you might think it’s the same old reliably Republican state that backed 10 GOP presidential candidates in a row, starting with Richard Nixon in 1968. But that 8-3 Republican advantage in the delegation is misleading. Democrats have won every recent statewide election. President Barack Obama broke the GOP winning streak and carried Virginia in 2008 and 2012. Both of the state’s U.S. senators are Democrats. And last fall, Democrats swept the top three statewide offices – governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general – for the first time in 24 years. “Virginia really stands alone when we talk about how rapidly this state has moved from a reliably red state to a purple state,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. “The Democrats are clearly in the ascendancy and have rapidly moved from underdog status to really the dominant party in statewide elections. That’s not reflected in the state House of Delegates and Congress because of gerrymandering.”
The party in power at the Virginia General Assembly gets to draw congressional district boundaries every 10 years. While lawmakers are supposed to heed such high-minded principles as preserving common “communities of interest” and limiting the splitting of precincts, the reality is that forging a partisan advantage and protecting incumbents are the top priorities.
That’s how increasingly Democratic Virginia wound up with an overwhelmingly Republican congressional delegation – although it wasn’t easy.
Virginia’s government was divided after the 2010 census, with Democrats holding a slim edge in the state Senate and Republicans controlling the House of Delegates and the governor’s office. The two sides deadlocked on redistricting in 2011. By the following year Republicans had taken control of the Senate and were able to push through a redistricting plan that favored the GOP by packing Democrats into three districts.
Full Article: Gerrymandering distorts Virginia’s House makeup | WJLA.com.