In a cold and calculated maneuver Virginia Republicans used the presidential inauguration as cover to sneak through redistricting legislation that will potentially ruin Democrats in the 2015 state senate elections. The GOP was only able to pass this through the senate because of the absence of a key senator, and former civil rights leader, who traveled to Washington D.C. to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
The inauguration of a president is supposed to be a day when politics are put aside, and all sit in awe at the workings of a democracy in action. Even the most virulent and outspoken national Republicans such as Iowa Congressman Steve King said, "my thought for today is, this is a constitutional event and our forefathers would be proud we're following the directions they gave us. Tomorrow we'll start the political discussion."
Republicans in Virginia have no use for honoring a constitutional event.
The Virginia Senate has been deadlocked in a 20-20 split equally of Democrats and Republicans. State rules say that if a senator is not present, a vote can be carried on without them. Therefore when famed civil rights leader, Senator Henry Marsh, 79, traveled to Washington he left Democrats vulnerable in the senate to a sneak attack vote. But who would be so dishonorable to disrespect this much celebrated and coveted day? The possibility seemed moot, as even the most contentious legislative bodies would be presumed to respect the day. That presumption was proved wrong.
In a 19 to 20 vote, Republicans passed a bill described locally by nbc12.com:
On a party line 20-19 vote after limited debate Monday, Republicans won Senate passage of an amendment to a House bill that previously had made only minor technical corrections to district lines.
Only minor technical corrections to district lines? Then why the outrage? Republican Senator John Watkins defended the sneaky vote by saying that the redistricting will create another 'black district' which is good for Democrats. He failed to discuss how the redrawing of the districts will now strengthen the overall Republican hold on the state.
Virginia's House is GOP controlled, as well as the Governor's mansion currently occupied by Bob McDonnell. The governor's spokesperson, Tucker Marin, claims McDonnell had no knowledge of the pending legislation, and cannot say if he will sign it or not. According to talkingpointsmemo.com Marin said, “He has not seen this legislation. If the bill gets to his desk he will review it in great detail at that time as he did with prior redistricting legislation.”
It is difficult to imagine a scenario where the legislation doesn't pass the house, and it is even further difficult to imagine the governor not signing into law new district lines that will help him and his party immensely in the years to come.