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Virginia Dems pressure Bob McDonnell to kill redistricting plan

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

A Hampton Roads Democrat and candidate for lieutenant governor dropped about 14,000 signatures on Gov. Bob McDonnell's desk Tuesday, urging the Republican governor to veto a surprise redistricting plan GOP lawmakers have been pushing.

The redistricting proposal, which Senate Republicans rammed through on Martin Luther King, Jr. day when a Democrat was attending President Obama's inauguration, is scheduled to be voted on Wednesday in the House. Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, is hopeful that House Speaker Bill Howell will block it but he's hedging his bets by lobbying McDonnell as well.

The redistricting plan would create a majority black district in southern Virginia, but would weaken Democratic chances in several other districts.

"People feel very strongly that it was unconstitutional," said Northam. "It was not vetted. Nobody had the opportunity to hear the bill from the public and it's not good democracy."

Northam is running against former Virginia Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

Northam's 14,000 petition signatures are the among thousands of others submitted to the governor last week. McDonnell has criticized the manner by which the redistricting bill passed the Senate but has not ruled out signing it.

The General Assembly reapportions legislative districts every 10 years after new U.S. Census data comes out. Lawmakers last passed new maps in 2011.

But Senate Republicans in January forced a vote on new maps that would redraw district boundaries to give them an advantage in the 2015 elections. The House has for weeks delayed action on the Senate plan as Republican leaders negotiate with Democrats, who are threatening to hold up the governor's budget and transportation plan if the redistricting plan passes.

"That's certainly up for discussion," Northam said. "This redistricting plan brought back the contention and the divisiveness that we saw last year."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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