Lawmakers returned to Richmond Monday on a dazzling sunny day, but the effort to redraw Virginia's political maps remains clouded with partisan fighting and political gamesmanship.
On Monday morning, the House and Senate Privileges and Elections Committees held another public hearing, wrapping up a statewide tour where the proposed changes to Virginia's political boundaries were blasted by voters and good government advocates as being more about partisan tactics and retribution than common sense.
Students, black civic leaders and government reform advocates told lawmakers Monday to change redistricting to serve the voters and listen to Gov. Bob McDonnell's independent advisory panel, which offered up suggested maps on Monday.
"The people didn't send any of you here to get re-elected again," Virginia Beach voter Andrew Jackson said. "You'll see me again and again until you get this right."
But maps drawn up by the commission and those produced during a college student competition have been largely ignored by powerbrokers and redistricting maps drawn by the majority party in each house appear set on a fast track.
Every state must redraw its political districts to reflect population changes found in the 2010 Census. Virginia must move more quickly than other states because it holds state elections in odd-numbered years. The redistricting effort has typically been used to reward and strengthen incumbents in the majority party and to punish opponents.
All 140 lawmakers stand for re-election in November. Democrats have a majority in the Senate, Republicans have the majority in the House of Delegates.
The two groups released proposed maps last week, leaving Hampton Roads losing a Republican Senate seat in Virginia Beach and a Democratic House district in Norfolk. The Peninsula has become a particular source of intrigue — especially Sen. John Miller's new Newport News district, which Democrats plan to stretch into Williamsburg.
Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. "Tommy" Norment, R-James City and Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, both appear to be considering moving into Miller's district.
Norment floated the idea late last week after seeing that Democrats had drawn new district lines that cut through the his James City neighborhood, King's Mill. Senate Democrats released new maps Sunday that move the line outside of King's Mill, but still not far from Norment's home.
Wagner, meanwhile, was drawn into the district of Virginia Republican Sen. Jeff McWaters. But Wagner owns a shipyard in Newport News. Wagner said in a Senate speech that Virginia Beach was a victim and said he would defend it "long after I might not be in the city."
The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee meets Tuesday morning to vote on maps Democrats plan to push with their 22 to 18 majority. The House Privileges and Elections panel met Monday and approved slightly altered plans that move Del. Robin Abbott, D-Newport News, into Republican Del. Glenn Oder's district.
Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said he met with nearly 20 colleagues to make changes to proposed maps. He did not identify any major alternations in Hampton Roads other than small "geographic adjustments." House and Senate members expect floor debate on Tuesday.