I've never gotten fired up much about partisan redistricting because, well, I don't really have a problem with it. Largely because I think that any given election is dictated as much by the candidates themselves more than anything else. Yes, you can have a district conservative or liberal, but that generally matches the views of the constituents. And when someone goes off the reservation, the voters will speak - I always point to Tom Perriello's defeat of Virgil Goode as proof of that. And I also believe that when it comes to politics and the creation of districts, there really is no such thing as non-partisan. Everyone has some kind of agenda, I just prefer the people that make decisions are people we can elect or defeat.
So there is my theory on redistricting, some have said its kind of cynical. But even I was taken aback when I saw THIS list from VPAP outlining the contested elections in the House of Delegates for 2011. I was stunned. Of the 100 seats in the House of Delegates, ONLY FIFTEEN WILL BE CONTESTED BETWEEN A REPUBLICAN AND A DEMOCRAT. That is an astounding 15% COMPETITION RATE. Wow.
For the record, here are the districts: 9, 10, 13, 19, 20, 31, 34, 36, 37, 42, 52, 59, 64, 75, and 87.
As a comparison, there will be 17 competative state senate seats out of 40, at a clip of 42% competition rate.
It made me wonder why this is? Part of it is certainly is redistricting, but I think any Democrat in Virginia should be ashamed of their leadership and candidate recruitment. On the list of delegates not being challenged are people like Jim LeMunyon, Tim Hugo, Rich Anderson, Tag Greason, Ron Villenueva, Chris Stolle, and Tom Rust; candidates who in the past have had to win close elections and many of whom are freshman. Democrats failure to, thus far, find candidates to run in these districts is almost laughable and makes one wonder if DPVA Chairman Brian Moran should spend more time running his party rather than running scam schools.
But it makes me wonder on a different level how, in Virginia's political culture, important competitive elections are at this local level. Now we aren't in the Byrd days anymore, but Virignia's political tradition has been slow and uncompetitive since James Barbour, John Daniel, and Thomas Martin ripped Virginia out of Reconstruction and away from the Readjusters and turned it into the conservative southern machine they built and one Harry Byrd took over and perfected. Virginia isn't like many of the old New England (NH has 400 seats in their house of representatives, 1 for every 3,300 people) and Midwest states where competitive elections have been part of the states political traditions since before the Revolution. There is a certain complacency I detect at times in Virginia, and maybe its the fatigue of having elections every single year. Perhaps every now and then folks are just tired of it.
I don't have the age or experience to really know much past 2001 in terms of local elections in Virginia, but this can't be normal. 15 PERCENT of House of Delegates seats will be up for grabs. What is it about this chamber? Moreso than the state senate, the House of Delegates seems to be the true barometer of the states politics. Maybe its because Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, James Madison, and Patrick Henry all served in the House that it carries more gravitas? The House had been the last of the Byrd redoubts before the fall of the Organization.
I'm searching for a reason why only 15% of our delegates will be in competitive elections this year? And the number of actual seats that might flip are even less because I suspect the 10th, 19th, 31st, and 87th won't actually be competitive. That lowers it down to 11%!!! Anyone else have any idea why Virginia won't be able to affect any change in the House of Delegates it might want? Or is the commonwealth satisfied with the House and the fact that there is no energy against what they are doing means nobody wants to run? Is it because the state senate is such a battleground that that is where all the attention is, and candidates serious about a future in politics want a crack at the upper chamber?
Someone, please help me understand this!
(PS - thanks to Brian Schoeneman, I WILL be one of the few Virginians will the ability to vote in a real competitive House of Delegates district. And I proudly will cast my vote for Brian)