Predictive Redistricting in Virginia-2011

NLS offered his House of Delegate predictions yesterday, and with it cast a cautionary consideration for both parties in the next decade.

After suggesting the GOP would come out of this election with a 53-42 edge (plus independents who caucus with the GOP), Ben says:

Not impressive for the GOP which tried to draw itself 66 safe seats a few years ago.

Ben’s observation is correct-the GOP gunned for a super majority (although I thought it was 62 seats), and the resulting slide is perhaps the only possible outcome of the method or goal used by the GOP.

Redistricting for the 2001 elections happened prior to 9/11 so there is a great deal that they could not predict. The GOP attempted to create GOP Majority seats based on recent numbers, but to my recollection did not use a great deal of demographic projections in their efforts. They took the numbers they had, and tried to create as many GOP majority districts in the House and the Senate as they could. The problem was how close they cut it. Example-In 2001 Jack Rust was a member of the House of Delegates from Fairfax, unopposed in 1999, and one of the chief GOP strategists in Richmond. He was seen as a potential House Speaker.

Then they redistricted, and with Rust’s approval moved GOP precincts out of his district to undermine incumbent democrats and make other districts more GOP friendly. The thought was that Rust’s district would be more competitive, but was still solidly GOP.

Ah…as they say, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans…

Things did not go as the Jack Rust planned. Along came Chap! Petersen, GOP infighting over first the budget and then the gubernatorial nominee, the Mark Warner candidacy, 9/11, etc. A great deal of things happened…and Rust, the future Speaker of the House of Delegates, lost a close race in 2001 and was clobbered in 2003.

Statistics can only get you so far. The course of human events never runs smooth, and all paths-especially politics-is littered with the unexpected.

Rather than gun for a huge majority of district that are leaning GOP, I tend to think the Va Assembly GOP would have been better served by creating 56 bullet proof districts as opposed to 66 solid/lean GOP. While it is true that you have a smaller margin of error, it is also true that it is easier to maintain party discipline and coherence if your number is smaller and more cohesive.

We have seen this in Washington.  After the 1964 elections LBJ told his staff they had 18 months to get things done, as after 18 months congressman would be worried more about the 1966 elections, and that the democratic majority was so large they almost had to lose seats in 1966.  Tight control is also the way that Tom DeLay was able to get so much legislation through the House of Representatives despite having a relatively small majority…a smaller contingent, and greater control.

Given this knowledge, it will be interesting to see how redistricting plays out in 2011…will the majority party follow the Vance Wilkins plan and seek to create a large number of districts that are marginally with the majority party in hopes of creating a huge majority, or will it follow the bulletproof strategy of creating as many absolute win districts with the aim of a smaller majority that is more easily controlled and managed?

We shall see…


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