City booted from Rep. Scott’s 3rd District in judicial order
Jeremy M. Lazarus | , Joey Matthews | 1/15/2016, 6:56 a.m.
Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott no longer will represent Richmond in the U.S. House of Representatives if the decision of a three-judge panel sticks.
The federal court panel has redrawn the 3rd Congressional District that Rep. Scott has represented since 1993 after finding the GOP-dominated Virginia General Assembly illegally overstuffed the district with African-American voters.
While the new district is still subject to review by the U.S. Supreme Court, one big result is Richmond, Eastern Henrico and Charles City County — all Democratic strongholds — become part of the 4th Congressional District, which Republican Rep. J. Randy Forbes currently represents.
Meanwhile, the 3rd District would be confined largely to Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk and Portsmouth.
The overhaul reduces the African-American voting age population in the 3rd District from around 55 percent to around 45 percent, and lifts the African-American voting age population in the 4th District from around 32 percent to about 43 percent.
The decision, issued Jan. 7, appears to immediately raise the prospect of electing African-American candidates in more than one district in Virginia.
It also opens the door for a Democrat to capture the 4th District in November’s congressional election — if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the panel’s plan.
While he has yet to announce, state Sen.. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, already is corralling support for a likely challenge to the entrenched Rep. Forbes, according to numerous political insiders.
“We’ll have to wait to see what happens,” is all Sen. McEachin would say Tuesday as he prepared for the opening Wednesday of the General Assembly, where he serves as chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Rep. Scott, who is Virginia’s sole African-American congressman, is confident he can win re-election even with fewer African-Americans of voting age in the 3rd District.
He praised the panel for imposing “a new congressional map that fixes the unconstitutional racial gerrymander of Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District.
While Sen. McEachin expressed caution about what the U.S. Supreme Court may decide, others are more excited about the prospects.
“The map approved by the three-judge panel is a positive development,” Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, a former state Democratic Party chairman, said. “This map gives Richmond a powerful, collective voice in choosing our next congressional representative, and could ultimately increase the number of Democratic members in the Virginia delegation.”
“All we have to do is make sure we get people out to vote,” said Reginald Ford, president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters, the area’s largest African-American political group.
The plan the panel endorsed appears largely to track a proposal Rep. Scott endorsed in 1991, when the majority-black 3rd District was first created. It also is aligned with a plan state Sen. Mamie E. Locke, D-Hampton, chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, proposed in 2011, when she sought to increase black voter influence in the 4th District.
Both Sen. Locke’s plan and Rep. Scott’s proposal were rejected at the time.
“I am happy that the judges adopted a plan very similar to the one I introduced,” Sen. Locke said. “I am glad that citizens in the 3rd and 4th districts will now have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”