As the General Assembly prepares to reconvene to vote on proposed new districts as required by the 2010 census, many of us in Northern Virginia are profoundly bewildered by what the Democratic majority in the Virginia State Senate are trying to accomplish.
Perhaps the best explanation so far comes from the former chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Party Pete Rousselot, who says this plan is "the product of top down, hierarchical, dictatorial planning designed to protect individual incumbent Democratic Senators behind a supposed firewall to preserve a Democratic majority in the Virginia State Senate."
But just who is being dictatorial and hierarchical? That would be State Senator Janet Howell, who as Chairman of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee has led the process of redistricting the State Senate. Senator Howell has professed at length about wanting to take politics out of redistricting and applying fairness and civility to the process. Her website claims "she is improving public access, participation and input to this vitally important responsibility."
So why is Fairfax County now split up, bent up and reshaped into long, crooked fingers piled one upon the other?
Answer: Caren Merrick.
Who is Caren Merrick? Caren is a wife, mother, non-profit leader and successful entrepreneur who announced earlier in the year her intention to challenge Senator Howell in the upcoming November elections.
To avoid what many considered a potentially strong challenge, Senator Howell did exactly what she said she would not do, by gerrymandering Fairfax County and literally redistricting Caren Merrick out of her Senate district. She sliced out Great Falls and parts of McLean, tossing them into a new 31st District snaking its way along the Potomac from the Pentagon all the way to eastern Loudon County.
At over twenty miles long but barely a mile wide in places, this new district gives the original "Gerry's Salamander" a good run for its money. More importantly, it slices the community of McLean in half, and disconnects most of McLean and all of Great Falls from Tysons Corner, the commercial hub they are so clearly connected to.
I urge all voters to look at the newly proposed districts as written by Senator Howell, and ask who this plan really serves. It clearly does not serve the interests of the voters in Fairfax, but clearly serves the self interest of a politician desperate to maintain power.
The writer is chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee