Call it the sleeper issue in this year’s governor’s race. Most voters probably don’t know that when they cast ballots Nov. 7 for the state’s top executive, they’ll likely be choosing how they want Virginia to draw boundary lines for congressional and state legislative districts. The two top candidates, Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, because of their party affiliations and histories, offer markedly different views and personal experience that guide how they want to divvy up legislative turf. For certain, the next governor will be a key player in 2021 in approving new maps for 140 General Assembly districts and 11 congressional districts based on the previous year’s federal census. He also may be required to work with legislators as soon as next year to change the boundaries of 11 House of Delegates districts, including three in Hampton Roads, depending on the outcome of a federal lawsuit. New maps must be approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor.
Electing longtime Republican activist Gillespie means backing a governor who once led a successful national GOP effort, begun in 2010, to elect Republicans to state legislatures around the country with an expressed purpose: redraw district lines to give the party an edge and keep it in control of Congress.
Electing Northam, the lieutenant governor and a former state senator, means backing someone who wants to appoint a nonpartisan commission to draw district boundaries and vows to veto any maps drawn by the GOP-controlled General Assembly that he doesn’t deem fair to Democrats.