By Jim Ellis
Dec. 13, 2021 — The Virginia congressional redistricting map was just published and it contains some surprises. Unexpectedly, the overall plan features more competitive districts than the current map, and the state’s three female members each drew more difficult political situations. All eight males would have safe seats.
Because the Virginia Redistricting Commission members failed to produce a new congressional map by the stated deadline, the Supreme Court of Virginia was forced to assume map drawing responsibilities. The court hired two special masters, a Democrat and a Republican, to collaborate and produce a new federal map.
The 11-district plan enhances the political competition in two seats when compared to vote totals typically yielded from the current map and creates a new open seat that sets the scene for a highly contested Democratic primary. The districts of Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Norfolk) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Leesburg) clearly become more competitive, while Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Glen Allen) has no reasonable place to run.
Instead of placing the new 7th District in the central part of the state beginning in Henrico County where Rep. Spanberger resides, the seat is transferred to Northern Virginia and will occupy all of Prince William and Stafford counties along with the cities of Manassas, Manassas Park, and Fredericksburg in addition to a small piece of southeastern Fairfax County. The FiveThirtyEight statistical organization rates the new 7th as D+14.
Immediately, two Democratic candidates who this year ran statewide — gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Carroll Foy and Hala Ayala, the lieutenant governor nominee — both expressed interest in running for the new seat. Both women are former state delegates. Though the new Prince William-anchored district is numbered seven, none of Spanberger’s current constituents reside here.
First District Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Montross) loses the Northern Virginia region he currently represents and sees his district move west. It picks up the western part of Henrico County and pairs him with Rep. Spanberger. With the statistics projecting the new 1st as R+16, it appears any Wittman-Spanberger campaign would end badly for the Democratic congresswoman.
The remaining parts of the Spanberger constituency have gone to Rep. Donald McEachin’s (D-Richmond) 4th District, and Rep. Wexton’s 10th CD. Such would force Rep. Spanberger to challenge a sitting Democratic incumbent if she were to choose to run in one of these seats. In no situation does Rep. Spanberger have a reasonable victory path.