A Republican effort to redistrict Virginia's state senate would change the makeup of Chap Petersen's district. Though all of Fairfax City would remain in Petersen's 34th District, the changes look to remove its neighbors.
The changes, introduced as an amendment to a larger bill late Monday, are awaiting House approval, but Democrats — who called the move an attempt to gain control of the evenly-split senate — are gearing up for a fight.
Republicans called the redistricting attempt "an effort to create another majority black Senate district." It comes two years after Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the state's traditional redistricting plan, crafted every 10 years with census data in years that end in "1."
Introducing yet another plan is unconstitutional, Senate democrats say; voting while Democratic State Sen. Harry Marsh, a 79-year-old civil rights leader, traveled to Washington for President Barack Obama's second inauguration was "underhanded."
One Democratic analyst, Kenton Ngo, says "of the 6,147,347 voting age people in Virginia in Census 2010, 2,776,292 would be moved into a new district."
"This redistricting is out of time, out of order and outside the constitution which states that redistricting can only be done in 2011. Our community is being politically torn apart without any input or consideration," Petersen said in a statement after voting against the bill. "This measure is taken on a day when the nation is re-inaugurating our President, and celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. It is done outside the ordinary calendar and with the intent to maximize Republican power. There is no other purpose."
In the Republican proposal, Petersen's 34th District would lose much of Vienna, Dunn Loring and the area surrounding Oakton High School, moving those precincts to District 35, a seat held by Dick Saslaw (D).
Petersen's district would also lose part of Centreville and Fairfax Station and instead extend northwest from Oakton through Chantilly to Dulles Airport, following Lawyers Road east to the Vienna border, and up Hunter Mill Road to where it meets Colvin Run.
It would also pick up Burke and neighborhoods north of West Springfield.
While the change would benefit Saslaw, who would see a 2.4 percent increase in his Democratic voting base as a result of the bill, it significantly changes the makeup of 34th District constituents: Petersen would face a base that is 0.7 percent more Republican.
Overall, Petersen would gain 20 precincts and lose 20 others, an aide to Petersen told Patch.
But more importantly is what those changes do to communities within the district, the aide said.
In a release from his office, Petersen went on to say:
Areas that Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) had represented since 2001 were taken away from the 34th district, including precincts like Villa, Mosby and Mantua which are closely integrated in the central Fairfax area and share community and environmental concerns with Fairfax City. Other traditional County neighborhoods like Kings Park West and Greenbriar were split in two, with half staying in the 34th district and the other half falling out.
The “new” 34th District also "fails to include the new precincts that were created by Fairfax County in 2011, after we redistricted," Petersen, who is up for re-election in 2015, wrote on his blog. "That means that the new precinct for George Mason University, for example, has been effectively abolished."
Among other changes in Vienna: State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) would lose her precincts in Vienna, Wolf Trap and some of Reston.