Redistricting stalemate broken
UPDATE: Gov. Bob McDonnell late Thursday said he would sign the redistricting legislation passed by the General Assembly "as soon as it reaches my desk." In a statement, the governor said the legislation approved by state lawmakers earlier in the day addresses most of the concerns he had voiced in vetoing an earlier version of the bill. He singled out the work on the Senate plan, for which he had reserved his harshest criticism, praising Republicans and Democrats who came up with a compromise.

— The Virginia Senate on Thursday approved new districts for their 40 members, significantly changing the electoral battle map in Hampton Roads and elsewhere.

The 32-5 vote effectively broke the logjam over redistricting, the once-a-decade process where state lawmakers redraw legislative lines to account for population shifts.

After the Senate voted, the House of Delegates approved the legislation, which contains previously agreed-upon districts for the 100 delegates.

While the House process went relatively smoothly, redistricting bogged down in the Senate, where majority Democrats proposed a plan that drew scorn from GOP senators and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.

However, a small group of senators began meeting privately on Monday, and by Wednesday it seemed like a deal was at hand.

The plan won the grudging support of Sen. Thomas K. Norment, Jr., R-James City, although it separates him from the city of Williamsburg and from the College of William and Mary, where he works.

"This plan is unacceptable to me individually," he said in a floor speech.

Norment said he spent his career promoting cooperation between the communities of the Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, James City County and York County. That included joint court, school, transportation and tourism systems.

"Those communities are fragmented," he said "Like many of you, my communities are not happy. Some of the major institutions in my community are offended by this plan."

The plan puts Williamsburg into the 1st Senate District, represented by Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News.

However, Norment had promised to support the bill if a majority of his caucus agreed to it – they did, hence his reluctant support.

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, defended the plan as fair and constitutionally sound. She said it respects, to the extent possible, the current makeup of the Senate at 22 Democrats and 18 Republicans, and tries to make districts as compact as possible.

But there are also changes afoot in South Hampton Roads.

The proposal puts Sen. Fred Quayle, R-Suffolk, into the 14th District represented by Sen. Harry Blevins, R-Chesapeake. Meanwhile, Quayle's old 13th District shifts north. The new map shows the 13th District in fast-growing Northern Virginia.

How this affects the political future of the two men is unclear.

Blevins and Quayle talked by phone Thursday morning, Blevins said. Quayle, who has been through surgery, sounded conciliatory about the shift, said Blevins.

"He said he would help me," said Blevins, meaning that Quayle would assist him in meeting key people throughout the new district.

Blevins said he didn't want to ask Quayle straight out if he would retire.

Reached by phone, Quayle said he hasn't made up his mind about his political future. He said he's unhappy that the city of Suffolk would "lose a resident senator. They have enjoyed that for the last 10 years."

He said he neither he nor Blevins want to run against each other, but "either us could win" in the 14th District.

Quayle said he might run for reelection if Blevins chooses not to, for whatever reason. But Blevins said he was fairly happy with the new 14th District.

"It's always better to be more compact," he said.

The city of Virginia Beach has also seen shifts. A previous version of the plan had GOP Sens. Frank Wagner and Jeff McWaters in the same district. These Virginia Beach lawmakers now have separate districts.

Gov. McDonnell on April 15 vetoed the General Assembly's first effort at redistricting, reserving his harshest criticism for the Senate plan.

McDonnell is expected to receive the legislation on his desk as early as Friday. He will then have seven days to sign, amend or veto it.

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