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Virginia Senate Passes New Congressional Map

A Congressional redistricting plan that protects Virginia’s 11 incumbents is one step away from becoming law.

The Virginia Senate passed the Republican-sponsored bill that gives the GOP a strong opportunity to secure its eight districts, with Democrats continuing to hold three. The bill now awaits the signature of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who is expected to sign it as soon as possible.

Democrats have roundly criticized the plan for packing African-Americans into Rep. Bobby Scott’s (D) 3rd district instead of creating a second minority-influenced district, which state Senate Democrats included in the plan that chamber passed last year. African-Americans account for one-fifth of the state’s population.

Democrats have also called the process unconstitutional, and a group of citizens filed a lawsuit challenging that state law requires redistricting to be completed before the end of 2011. Republicans counter that they attempted to complete it in 2011 and finished the process as quickly as possible once the new legislative session opened.

As the map nears becoming state law, it still must receive preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal court to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

The new map makes it more difficult for Democrats to increase their representation in the delegation, but national party strategists believe two Republican-held districts remain competitive. President Barack Obama took 49 percent in freshman Rep. Scott Rigell’s (R) redrawn 2nd district in 2008 and narrowly edged Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in Rep. Frank Wolf’s (R) 10th district with a similar percentage.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named businessman Paul Hirschbiel, who is challenging Rigell, to the first installment of its Red to Blue program. Hirschbiel is officially kicking off his campaign Monday in Virginia Beach alongside his friend, Sen. Mark Warner (D).

Retired Air Force Gen. John Douglass (D), who is taking on Wolf, was included in the DCCC’s list of emerging races.

The largest change came in Rep. Gerry Connolly’s (D) 11th district in Fairfax County, which became significantly safer for Democrats. Obama would have won it with 61 percent of the vote, and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) would have carried it with 54 percent in the 2004 presidential election.

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