Republican Senator Quits Redistricting Commission

Sen. Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) Photo Credit: Bob Brown/Times Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Sen. Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) has resigned from the Virginia Redistricting Commission. He was one of two Republican Senators appointed to the Commission.

Newman did not give any reasons for his decision. However, it is difficult to think it was not out of personal pique at the turn the decision process has taken. As I detailed in my last post, the bipartisan co-chairs announced in their August 23 meeting a policy forbidding individual commissioners from communicating with the Commission’s partisan attorneys and map drawers outside of a public meeting or without all the members being aware of the communication and any questions and of the response. This policy largely negates the decisions previously made by the Commission and vigorously pushed by Newman: two sets of partisan attorneys, two sets of map drawers, consideration of political data, and consideration of incumbents’ addresses. Newman was the most outspoken member opposed to the new protocol. The recent revealing by the map drawers of proposed Senate districts for Northern Virginia must have been the last straw. They were developed without taking incumbents’ addresses into consideration. Any attempted tinkering with those boundaries will have to occur in public session, presumably subject to a series of votes.

I have always viewed Newman as one of the most reasonable and articulate conservatives in the Senate and this move is thus surprising and disappointing. It is even more puzzling because the senator supposedly did not “have a dog in the fight.” He announced at the August 23 meeting that he probably would not be running for reelection.

The other Republican Senator on the panel is Ryan McDougle of Hanover. Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment will select a replacement for Newman. The Commission has a little more than a month to complete redistricting plans for the House and Senate and submit them to the General Assembly.

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7 responses to “Republican Senator Quits Redistricting Commission”

  1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    I know Steve Newman and like him personally. He is a nice guy. But I am not a fan of some of his choices.

    He took far, far too much money from the hospital lobby as Chair of the Senate Education and Health Committee and I have voiced objection to that here.

    Your report on his machinations in the redistricting committee kind of seal an overall negative impression. It is time for him to leave.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I try not to let “nice guy” color my view of elected and in Newsman’s case, I have to say, I’d hope for better scruples and no loss on him leaving to be honest.

    My delegate also is a “nice” guy but when I asked him about Citizen Initiative even for just advisory, he was having none of it.

    On the redistricting – Sounds like Barker is also unhappy and again, I find myself not feeling any sympathy at all over protecting incumbents districts which would basically violate a fundamental aspect of truly having compact and contiguous districts. Gerrymandering is, by definition, drawing districts to suit incumbents.

    And it seems clear that both Barker and Newman intended to try to influence the way the commission would work.

    Not shocked they tried (and perhaps some success) but heartened that somehow they were blocked – because I guess I would have thought in either case, if they had been supported from their other half counterpart – they might have had the ability to have their way and derail those things.

    I voted against the commission because I felt like it was a ruse and a sham, but maybe I was wrong.

    Still plenty of ways for it to go sideways especially last minute stuff.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      You are exactly right. It isn’t over until it is over.

    2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      It only takes two to vote against the plan to scuttle it, remember.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        yep. that was my point – badly articulated.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Well, maybe I was wrong. This thing seems to be working.

    One impression I’m beginning to get is that when an elected official is actually forced to set aside their personal fortunes and work to the benefit of Virginians, they quit. Is that the much vaunted “Virginia Way”?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      on a wing and a prayer apparently – the fact that they could actually vote on preserving an elected current district in the first place (as opposed to it not even an option – period) is alarming to me. Good that enough of them stood firm. Bad, that it could have just as easily gone the other way on one vote.

      Waiting for the other shoes….

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