Proposed redistricting maps lump three state senators into city’s district, redraw House lines

Screenshot of proposed State Senate districts in western Virginia. Three sitting senators live in Harrisonburg’s proposed district.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published with an attributed quote suggesting that Harrisonburg voters would make up a larger share of voters in the newly proposed House of Delegates district that includes the city. In fact, the overall proportion of city voters in that proposed district would decrease slightly from the current level.

By Logan Roddy, senior contributor

Draft maps of new state legislative districts for Virginia propose changes to both the Senate and House of Delegates districts that include the City of Harrisonburg – and may affect who represents it in the General Assembly. 

The proposed map, released on Dec. 8, places Harrisonburg in the 2nd Senate district, along with all of Rockingham, Page, Highland and Bath counties and most of Augusta County. Three sitting state senators now live within the proposed district: Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Mount Solon) and Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath).

“So you’ve got a choice,” said William Call, treasurer of the Harrisonburg Republican Committee. “Do you retire, or do you run for reelection?”

Special masters Sean P. Trende and Bernand N. Grofman were appointed by the Supreme Court of Virginia to draw new legislative districts, after the Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to reach consensus on the matter earlier this fall. Members of the public and elected officials have the ability to make public comments on the proposed interactive maps on the Court’s website until Dec. 20 at 1 pm.

Proposed maps for the House of Delegates place Harrisonburg in the 34th district, along with part of northern Rockingham County including Singers Glen and east Rockingham out as far as Elkton. Del. Tony Wilt (R-Broadway), who now represents the city, would still live in the new district if it is adopted.

In an email, Wilt’s legislative aide Chad Funkhouser said Wilt was waiting to comment on the new districts maps until they are finalized.

Call, the city Republican Committee treasurer, described the redistricting process as “a human behavior exercise.”

“Everybody that comes to the table has certain goals in mind, and some they’re willing to compromise on, others they aren’t willing to compromise on,” he said.

Harrisonburg Democratic Committee chair Alleyn Harned said that he is enthusiastic that there are some levels of transparency to the ongoing redistricting process.

“This is just the first part of that dialogue,” Harned said. “I think it is very positive that the whole city is in one district in this draft. There are a lot of individual neighborhoods affected and folks should take a look and share their own opinions with the court.”

He said the city Democratic committee will reorganize on Jan. 10th, 2022, and the redistricting only reinforces the committee’s work to continue trying to “earn a Delegate out here.”

“The Senate, Delegate, and House positions are all very important and the districting process helps inform which voters get to choose elected officials,” Harned said.

Under the redistricting proposal, Harrisonburg would remain in the 6th Congressional District, now represented by Rep. Ben Cline (R-Lexington).

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