RTD columnist Jeff Schapiro analyzes a busy week in Virginia politics.
Virginia’s Republican Congressmen may ask the Supreme Court to review this week’s ruling by a three-judge panel that could jeopardize their jobs. John Gore, a Washington attorney representing the eight Republicans, said yesterday an appeal to the Supreme Court is being considered and a decision on whether to appeal is “imminent.”
A panel of federal judges yesterday declared Virginia’s congressional maps unconstitutional because they concentrate African-American voters into a single district at the expense of their influence elsewhere. Three federal judges ruled 2-1 yesterday (10/8) that the lines of the state's 3rd Congressional District were drawn in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The panel of judges allowed next month's election to proceed under the existing district lines, but ordered the General Assembly to redraw them by April 1, in time for the next congressional election in 2016.
Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed an executive order requiring state agencies to comply with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to legalize same-sex marriage in Virginia. State employees who are eligible for health benefits will be able to enroll their spouses and eligible dependents in those insurance plans within 60 days of marriage. Married same sex couples will also be able to file their state income taxes jointly.
The Federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the boundaries of Virginia’s 3rd congressional district as unconstitutional. They say the General Assembly unlawfully packed African-Americans there into a single majority minority seat. The 3rd district contains large portions of Richmond, Petersburg, Newport News, Hampton and Norfolk all with large African-American populations. The General Assembly is ordered to redraw the 3rd district by April 1, but will require changes to other neighboring GOP districts.
During last night’s (10/7) second debate between Senator Mark Warner and his Republican challenger Ed Gillespie, the two sparred over a host of topics, including immigration reform. Warner attacked Gillespie for not supporting a popular comprehensive Senate immigration reform bill, since stalled in the House, that would have doubled border security. Gillespie says in 2009 Warner voted against an amendment to the bill to secure the border with a fence. Warner would not say he opposed unilateral reforms from the President but did say the issue was better resolved legislatively.
A Wason Poll released early this morning (October 7) shows Democrat Mark Warner still with a commanding lead over Ed Gillespie, but the Republican Challenger in the U.S. Senate race is gaining ground. The poll shows Warner with 51%, Gillespie with 39%.
The Christopher Newport University Wason Center Poll was conducted September 29th Through October 5th, with 839 phone calls and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5%.
For the first time, same-sex couples began legally marrying in Virginia Monday afternoon. Danielle Sally and Heather Sturgill were the third same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license in the city of Richmond. Virginia’s Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring says all clerks are now required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and that so far all are complying.
Opponents of same-sex marriage are disappointed, but hold out hope that the Supreme Court will ultimately issue a definitive ruling in their favor.
Jeff Schapiro, Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist and WCVE News analyst, views the week's Virginia political news.
Last night (9/2), nine candidates for Petersburg City Council participated in a debate hosted by the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce at Tabernacle Baptist Church. All nine candidates up for election in ward’s 1, 3, 5, and 7 participated and over 100 Petersburg residents attended with many submitting questions to the moderator, WCVE’s own Bill Miller.
Candidates fielded questions on economic development strategies, reducing the city’s dependence on borrowed money, crime reduction, the need for a new jail and cooperation with the school board.