On Tuesday, the Virginia Assembly publicly released its much anticipated 2010 Senate and House redistricting proposals.
On Tuesday, the Virginia Assembly publicly released its much anticipated 2010 Senate and House redistricting proposals. The redistricting proposals will keep Falls Church City in Jim Scott’s 53rd House District, but modify the district by extending it further west and south. The senate redistricting plan will move Falls Church City into the 35th Senate District – which has also been moved out of Alexandria and Arlington – making Dick Saslaw (D – Majority Leader) the new state senator for the City. Although Falls Church City has several shared service agreements with Arlington County and elects the Clerk of Arlington Circuit Court and Commonwealth’s Attorney constitutional officers with Arlington, Falls Church City will now have all of its state-level representatives associated with Fairfax rather than Arlington county.
Redistricting will be taken up by state legislators next month, but the proposals are expected to be signed by the governor without major modification. Redistricting must also be preapproved by the US Department of Justice as part of Virginia’s compelled compliance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
So, residents of Falls Church City, please meet your new state senator – Richard Lawrence Saslaw. After serving in the Army, Dick was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1976 and the Virginia Senate in 1980. In 1984 he lost a U.S. Congressional election in the 8th District to Republican Stan Parris. He became Senate Majority Leader in 1998. Dick is associated with education issues (his wife is lifelong educator), and is a vocal proponent of a fuel tax increase as a way to pay for transportation. He has taken some controversial positions on gun control (helping to defeat Virginia’s so-called “Castle Rule”) and consumer rights issues (helping to defeat limits on so-called predatory loan practices in the car titling industry).
Saslaw easily won re-election in 2007 with 78 percent of the vote over a Republican challenger. Where Mary Margaret Whipple could be characterized as a gentile and unassuming, a consummate insider who relied on relationships and personal pressure to move things along, Dick Saslaw has a different style. He is a happy warrior Democrat, able to communicate and work with Republicans, all the while rollicking and fearlessly confronting the sometimes utter silliness of Virginia politics.
Last session when Republicans passed controversial anti-choice legislation which reclassified women’s health clinics as hospitals, Dick Saslaw was typically outspoken in his political characterization: “… If anybody thinks this debate is about women’s health, get a life … The Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party and now has a death grip on Republicans. In the past, Democrats could count on a Republican or two to defeat this type of legislation. Now, they are scared of being primaried by the Extreme Right …”
The redistricting is not as bad as it could have been for Falls Church City – and picking up the Senate Majority Leader as a representative is good for the City. Unhooking Falls Church City from its traditional ties to Arlington will, however, require some adjustments from the local Democratic community.
Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.